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From the NYTimes

Under Fire, Rangel Steps Aside as Leader of Committee
Published: March 3, 2010

WASHINGTON — Caught in a swirl of ethics inquiries, Representative Charles B. Rangel, the dean of the New York Congressional delegation, announced Wednesday that he would temporarily step down from his powerful post as chairman of the tax-policy-writing Ways and Means Committee.

“I have, this morning, sent a letter to Speaker Pelosi asking her to grant me a leave of absence until such time as the Ethics Committee completes its work,” the congressman said in a brief meeting with reporters.

He declined to answer questions in any detail, saying that to do so would raise issues that “would distract me from what I have to do in terms of completion of the president’s health bill as well as making sure our committee gets a good jobs bill.”

Republicans had been pressing for a vote to remove him from his chairmanship. Mr. Rangel said he acted to avoid forcing his colleagues to defend him during an election year.

Last week the House ethics committee admonished Mr. Rangel, an ally of Speaker Nancy Pelosi, for violating Congressional gift rules by accepting corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008.

The ethics panel is still investigating more serious accusations regarding Mr. Rangel’s fund-raising, his failure to pay federal taxes on rental income from a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic and his use of four rent-stabilized apartments provided by a Manhattan real estate developer.

And with Republicans preparing to force a vote Wednesday seeking to oust Mr. Rangel from his chairmanship, support among his fellow Democrats had been crumbling. He huddled on Tuesday evening in a meeting with senior party leaders, including Ms. Pelosi, and officials said Democrats were urging him to step down, at least temporarily.

But he had insisted after that meeting that he would not step aside, even temporarily.

A growing number of rank-and-file Democrats had said they could not envision standing behind the beleaguered chairman given the likelihood that he would soon face further reprimands by the ethics committee, and Republican challengers would criticize such a vote in the fall elections.

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