Ailing Back Forces Congressman Rangel To Miss 103 House Votes
Congressman Charles Rangel is facing a tough Democratic primary battle this spring against at least four declared candidates, but Rangel himself has not been seen in public in almost two months. NY1's Bobby Cuza has more on the missing Harlem lawmaker.
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When Congressman Charles Rangel issued a press release last week deploring passage of the House Republican budget, you might have thought he had voted against it. But Rangel didn’t vote on the budget at all.
In fact, Rangel has missed the last 103 House votes, dating back to February 9, due to an ailing back. Although Rangel has tried to stay engaged, introducing legislation, writing an op-ed column on health care reform, and even recording an Internet video.
“If it was just health care they wanted to destroy, that’s one thing. But they really want to destroy the president of the United States,” Rangel says in the video.
Still, Rangel has been essentially missing in action, less than three months away from a primary election.
His rivals, meanwhile, have been campaigning and attending candidate forums. State Senator Adriano Espaillat picked up the endorsement of an Upper Manhattan Democratic club this week.
A longtime Rangel ally, Espaillat declined to comment on Rangel’s absence, and attacked him only indirectly in a Tuesday NY1 interview.
“The average folk on the street really feels that there’s need for new leadership, a new voice in Congress to represent that district,” said Espaillat.
As to the nature of his health issues, Rangel aides have said the representative hurt his back moving boxes, and has been hospitalized twice, including last week.
On Thursday, Rangel was home at the Lenox Terrace apartments in Harlem, where NY1 reached him by phone. He declined to appear on camera, but told the station he was hospitalized only briefly last week in order for tests to be performed on his back.
Rangel assured NY1 he would be back making public appearances next week.
Given his ethics troubles, including a recent $23,000 settlement for improperly using a rent-regulated apartment at Lenox Terrace as a campaign office, and the need to introduce himself to new voters in a redrawn district that now extends into the Bronx and is majority Hispanic, Rangel better get moving soon. His own political future may be at stake.