- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 5, 2009

With accusations of tax evasion mounting against Rep. Charles B. Rangel, the top House Republican on Friday called for the New York Democrat to step aside as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee.

House Minority Leader John A. Boehner said that by remaining chairman amid reports he failed to report or pay taxes on some assets, Mr. Rangel is insulting the House and further eroding voters’ faith in Washington.

“Show the American people that having their confidence in your leadership means more to you than having the opportunity to wield power,” Mr. Boehner, Ohio Republican, said in a letter to Mr. Rangel, urging the man he said he considers a friend to give up the committee gavel while an ethics investigation proceeds.

But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled she will not ask Mr. Rangel to step aside, and Mr. Rangel said he won’t jump before the ethics committee acts. He pointed out that he, himself, asked the ethics committee to begin the investigation.

“Any action by the minority leader or others to prejudge the outcome of that bipartisan process would unfairly undermine the work of the ethics committee,” a Rangel spokesman said.

New York newspapers reported last month that Mr. Rangel for years had failed to disclose income and assets, including a bank account and a house worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, in his official House financial disclosure forms earlier this decade. The hidden assets became known after Mr. Rangel filed amended disclosure forms.

The New York Post reported that Mr. Rangel also failed to to pay taxes on land he owns in New Jersey - a thorny situation for Mr. Rangel as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, which is responsible for writing all tax laws.

The ethics committee is already probing Mr. Rangel for, among other actions, having failed to report rental income on a villa he owns in the Dominican Republic. He has since paid back taxes on that income.

But these latest revelations have increased the pressure on Mr. Rangel. The Washington Post, in an editorial this week, called for him to “step aside.”

If Mr. Rangel were to give up the gavel, Rep. Pete Stark, California Democrat, would be next in line to take over, though seniority doesn’t always control who gains a chairmanship.