Rangel said he would vacate the chair after being admonished by the House Ethics committee for taking corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean in violation of House gift rules. At a briefing following a caucus meeting, Rangel said he did not want his issues to be a distraction for Democratic members heading into the election cycle.
“I told [House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)] if my issues impeded elections of the Democratic party, I'd be glad to take a leave of absence,” he told reporters.
Caucus members Rep. Richard Neal (D-Mass.), who sits on the Ways and Means panel, and Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) said Rangel's temporary leave from the panel shouldn't affect healthcare reform.
“I think there's a process for healthcare reform, there are many issues for healthcare reform. I'm not totally satisfied with what I've been hearing about healthcare reform so we got try to clarify some things, but I don't think it will be affected,” said Engel, offering that Rangel's departure “may affect New York because he was an important voice at the table and now he's not going to be there.”
Caucus members acknowledged that Rep. Pete Stark (D-Calif.), Ways and Means' health subcommittee chairman, would be the likely choice to take over for Rangel during his leave of absence.
As for Rangel's future with the committee, “I didn't get the impression of any discussion of resignation until the ethics committee completes its work,” Neal said.
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