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Rangel Takes To House Floor To Respond To Critics

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Congressman Charles Rangel continued his defiant stance Tuesday afternoon with a wide-ranging and emotional speech on the floor of the House of Representatives ahead of a trial investigating his alleged ethics violations.

Over the last week or so, Rangel has taken a new approach to the ethics investigation, which stems from charges he failed to pay taxes on rental properties, used congressional stationary to solicit donations for a City College center in his name, and illegally rented multiple rent-stabilized apartments in Harlem.

After a committee formally announced the findings of their investigation last week, calls have come from some members of Rangel's own party to step down and avoid an election-year embarrassment.

Speaking on the House floor, the dean of New York's congressional delegation said he is not stepping aside.

And he fired back at critics who have labeled him as fundamentally corrupt.

"We have to respect each other and this institution which I love. I love my country, I love my Congress, and there's nothing I wouldn't do to preserve this from going on," Rangel said. "I love the arguments, I love the debates but you're not going to tell me to resign to make you feel comfortable."

Rangel also addressed the allegations against him, blaming them on sloppy accounting and practices he felt at the time were correct – not deliberate wrongdoing.

He even criticized GOP lawmakers for politically targeting him, and said the investigation has been dragged along in secret, without transparency or any foreseeable hearing date in sight.

And he said he would not resign to help other politicians.

"I deserve and demand the right to be heard,” Rangel said. “And if I hurt anybody's feeling, believe me, it's the equity and the fairness and the justice that I'm asking for and not your feelings.

As Democrats worry about the headlines, some political observers say the veteran Congressman will likely continue the political fight.

"Fascinating series of chess moves. Basically Charlie’s playing chicken with the House leadership. And he’s been at this a lot longer than they have," said Rogan Kersh of the NYU Wagner School.

Meanwhile, the message coming from the White House Tuesday was muted.

"Serious questions are being asked and answered about some charges that have been leveled against Congressman Rangel. The president's view is that we are not going to pre-judge that process," said Deputy White House Press Secretary Bill Burton.

The Ethics Committee has set a meeting for September 13th, right before the Democratic primary; however, there is still no date for any actual hearing.

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