Ten months ago, Rep. Charles Rangel (D-New York) was at the center of an ethics violation investigation over financial improprieties, and was forced to endure a humiliating censure on the House floor and the loss of the chairmanship of the powerful Ways and Means Committee. But it was a different story Thursday, when colleagues and more than 100 supporters gathered in the committee hearing room to heap praise on the long-term lawmaker for the unveiling of the smiling portrait of him that will permanently hang there.
“Everybody has their good times, everybody has their bad. We all know that,” said New York Sen. Charles Schumer. “But no matter what the times were like, this man, this great, wonderful man who I am so lucky to have as a mentor and friend to me … his spirit is so strong and so good.”
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) also spoke kindly of Rangel, with whom he often does not agree on issues.
“On behalf of all of us in the House, know that we’re proud of you, proud of your accomplishments,” Boehner said.
Rangel is not the only former Ways and Means chairman whose career has been tainted by controversy. His portrait joins that of Wilbur D. Mills (D-Arkansas), who was discovered with ex-stripper Fanne Fox in a 1974 traffic incident in Washington, D.C., and Dan Rostenkowski (D-Illinois), who pled guilty to mail fraud and spent 15 months in prison.
Rangel, who has said that his violations were really just carelessness, has handled the unfortunate asterisk on his career with grace. He also is still widely loved by colleagues on both sides of the aisle and continues to make a significant contribution to the committee’s work even though he’s not allowed to vote.
"My life is the story that anyone can make it, from high school dropout to having been chair of this great committee,'' the beaming 81-year-old said Thursday.
(Photo: J. Scott Applewhite/AP)