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House Republicans Call On Rangel To Step Aside

Republican leaders in the House are calling on Ways and Means Chairman Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) to temporarily relinquish his gavel atop the powerful tax-writing committee until the ethics panel has cleared him in three separate inquiries.

The top Republicans in the House sent Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) a letter on Tuesday asking her to remove Rangel from the top Ways and Means post.

"Given Chairman Rangel’s continuing ethical lapses, he cannot effectively carry out his duties as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee," the letter reads. "You, as the Speaker of the House, must insist that Rep. Rangel step down from his Ways and Means chairmanship pending an investigation of his ethical lapses."

Neither Pelosi's office nor Rangel's office was immediately available for comment.

In the letter, the lawmakers refer to a recent series of news reports that Rangel failed to pay taxes on rental income from a vacation home in the Dominican Republic.

Rangel has asked members of the ethics committee to investigate the matter, but Rep. Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-Ohio), who chaired the panel, died abruptly last month and Pelosi has not yet named a replacement.

Rangel also asked the Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, as the ethics committee is formally known, to review his use of four rent-stabilized apartments in a Harlem high-rise and a fundraising letter the New York Democrat sent on congressional stationery to wealthy potential donors of an educational center that bears his name.

Citing the earlier stories, House Minority Leader John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) offered a resolution over the summer to censure Rangel on those previous allegations - neither of which has provoked court action or an official ruling by the ethics panel.

UPDATE - In response to the letter, Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said:

"The American people would be better served if Republicans would stop playing politics and allow the bipartisan Ethics Committee to do its job. This letter demonstrates that Republican leaders have no confidence in their Members serving on the Ethics Committee and that they will do anything to divert attention away from the continuing fallout of the Abramoff scandal and the price the Republicans Party is continuing to pay for its culture of corruption."