Kabuki Theater in the House of Representatives!

by Richard H. Frank

Thursday December 2, 2010 once again showed why the 111th Congress will go down as possibly having the lowest approval rating in the history of our Republic.  Less than 24 hours following a meeting between the incoming leadership of the 112th Congress and President Obama where a photo-op of bipartisanship took place, Nancy Pelosi reverted to manipulating House rules to pass a tax increase for 2011 under the guise of extending current rates for those earning $250,000 or less, knowing full well that it had no chance of passing in the Senate.

After spending the majority of the day’s session to pass a bill that will undoubtedly be stopped in the Senate, the remainder of the session was devoted to the Censure proceedings against New York Representative  Charlie Rangel.

The process could be compared to Japanese Kabuki theater with the Ethics Committee presenting a summary of the charges against Rangel and their findings and recommendations to the House for Censure.

The next hour, we heard Rangel and his supporters make a weak case that mistakes were made but that Censure was too extreme a punishment for the offenses proven, relying on the sympathy of people remembering that 60 years ago he fought in the Korean War as many of other Americans watching this debacle have done.  All these pleas were followed by voting on an Amendment to the Resolution to allow for a Reprimand in lieu of Censure, a more appropriate punishment fitting the offense.

Two things were very evident insofar as Rangel’s remarks were concerned.  First was the lack of sincerity and conviction contained in his admission to having made mistakes (his interpretation of breaking the law).  Next the same air of arrogance he displayed the day he walked out of  his Hearing with the Committee was evident in his demeanor again today.

The only real surprises came in the final voting results by the House membership on the Amendments to reduce the penalty to a Reprimand and the final vote for Censure.  Either the House members suddenly had a good dose of conscience or Charlie received payback for  his past deeds from his contemporaries.

The  vote for Reprimand went down in flames while the final vote to Censure was adopted by over 330 members.  The finale to this soap opera came as Nancy Pelosi hurriedly read the Censure and penalty consisting of paying all taxes owing.  The entire process could not even be compared to a slap on the wrist but constituted something much less in my opinion.

Rangel’s statement that “This isn’t the worst day in my life” certainly was not an understatement.  If he was embarrassed, it didn’t show in his demeanor.  For Charlie it was just another day on the Hill wherein he was the center of attention.  Rangel is the quintessential example of someone who has been in Government too long.  He considers himself among the elite Washington Insiders who is far above those he was elected to represent.

So as far as the 111th Congress is concerned today was just another day at work, with nothing accomplished. I guess we will just have to keep close tabs on the 112th Congress and hold them accountable for their actions or lack thereof in 2012.

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