For Charlie Rangel, being slapped with 13 alleged ethics violations signals the beginning of what could be a long and very complicated disciplinary process. The full list, which ranges from a violation of the ban on solicitations and gifts to violating a rule against using congressional letterhead for unrelated business, was detailed in a 41-page document from the House rules committee.
What exactly does this mean for the powerful Ways and Means chairman? According to committee protocol, Rangel has 30 days in which to submit an admission or denial of each specific allegation. Rangel could admit to all of the charges, but he probably won’t. Any accusations that he denies will then go to a specially formed adjudicatory committee to hear all of the charges one by one.
So how would it work? Very much like a courtroom, actually: Rangel and his lawyers (as well as committee counsel on the other side) would be able to call witnesses and present evidence. After all the testimony is heard and evidence is presented, a vote on each count would be taken. If the committee were to vote that an allegation had been proved, he’d be found guilty on that count; if the evidence were lacking, that allegation would be dismissed.
Then Rangel’s entire rap sheet would be submitted to the full committee to use in deliberations on possible sanctions that it would, in turn, recommend to the full House. Suggestions for disciplinary action can range from reprimand to censure or even expulsion, depending on the severity of the charges. Rangel could also be fined, especially if he is found to have made financial gains from breaking the rules. He could also simply be stripped of certain rights and privileges that come with his positions.
Along the way, there are several ways Rangel could escape the long and embarrassing saga. For one, he could strike a deal with the committee, an option that is reportedly still being considered. He could also simply resign, which would mean leaving office in disgrace but avoiding the messiness of the public proceedings.