Charles B. Rangel

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Charles Rangel
Charles B. Rangel

Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 15th district
Assumed office 
January 3, 1971
Preceded by Adam Clayton Powell
Succeeded by Incumbent

Born June 11, 1930 (age 76)
New York City, New York
Political party Democratic
Spouse Alma Rangel
Religion Roman Catholic

Charles Bernard Rangel (born June 11, 1930) is an American politician. He has been a Democratic member of the United States House of Representatives since 1971, representing the Fifteenth Congressional District of New York (map) Rangel's district, the smallest in the country in geographic size, encompasses Upper Manhattan and includes such neighborhoods as Harlem, Spanish Harlem, Washington Heights, Inwood, and part of the Upper West Side, as well as a small portion of Queens in the neighborhood of Astoria. In January 2007 he became Chairman of the powerful House Ways and Means Committee. He is the first African American to chair the Ways and Means Committee. Rangel is a decorated war veteran, earning a Purple Heart and a Bronze Star for his service in the Korean War.


[edit] Early life

Charles Rangel was born in Harlem in New York City. His family was Roman Catholic. His father left the family when he was six years old; his mother worked as a maid and as a seamstress in a factory. Rangel attended DeWitt Clinton High School but dropped out at age 16 during his junior year and worked in various jobs.[1]

Rangel then enlisted in the United States Army, and served in it from 1948 to 1952. During the Korean War, he was a sergeant in the all-black 503rd Field Artillery Battalion in the 2nd Infantry Division. In late November 1950, this unit was caught up in heavy fighting in North Korea as part of the U.N. forces retreat from the Yalu River. In the Battle of Kunu-Ri, Rangel led some 40 men from his unit, during three days of freezing weather, out of a Chinese Army encirclement; nearly half of the battalion was killed in the overall battle. [2] Rangel was awarded a Purple Heart for a shrapnel wound to his foot and the Bronze Star Medal with Valor for his actions in the face of death. In 2000, Rangel reflected with CBS News that "Since Kunu Ri — and I mean it with all my heart, I have never, never had a bad day."[3]

After an honorable discharge from the Army, Rangel returned to finish high school, completing two years of studies in one year and graduating in 1953. Rangel then received a B.S. from the New York University School of Commerce in 1957 and, on full scholarship, obtained a degree in Law from St. John's University in 1960.[4] Rangel is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African Americans. He is a member of the fraternity's World Policy Council, a think tank whose purpose is to expand Alpha Phi Alpha's involvement in politics, and social and current policy to encompass international concerns.[5]

After graduating law school, Rangel passed the state bar exam and worked in private practice for a year. Rangel was then appointed U.S. Attorney in the Southern District of New York by U.S. Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.[4]

[edit] Political career

Rangel was elected to and served in the New York State Assembly from 1966 to 1970, representing the 72nd Legislative District in Central Harlem. In 1970 he ran for election to the U.S. House of Representatives, defeating long-time Congressman Adam Clayton Powell in the Democratic primary and then winning the general election. He has won re-election every two years since, often with over 90% of the vote.[6] His district was numbered the Eighteenth District from 1971–1973; the Nineteenth District from 1973–1983; and the Sixteenth District from 1983–1993.

In Congress, Rangel's first committee assignment was on the House Judiciary Committee where he participated in the impeachment hearings against President Richard Nixon.

Rangel co-founded the Congressional Black Caucus, where he has also served as chairman, and of which he continues to be a member.

In late 1998, when longtime New York Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced his retirement, Rangel was one of the first to advocate that then-First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton move to New York and run for the seat, which she did successfully.

In August 2006, Rangel had stated he would resign his seat if the Democrats did not take the House that November, which they did.[7]

As of January 2007, Rangel is the Chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means and Chairman of the Board of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. He is currently the fourth-longest serving Democratic House member, behind John Dingell, John Conyers and Dave Obey.

Rangel and his wife Alma live in Harlem. They have two children, Steven and Alicia, and at least one grandchild.

[edit] Political views

Rangel is generally thought of as an ideologically committed liberal, but also someone who can be a pragmatic deal-maker. In particular, he is known for support of free trade agreements. [8]

[edit] The draft

Rangel has repeatedly called for the government to bring back the draft. According to Rangel, "There's no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm's way,"

He has also attempted to justify reinstating the draft as a way to make the military more representative of the American public at large. "A disproportionate number of the poor and members of minority groups make up the enlisted ranks of the military, while most priv­ileged Americans are underrepresented or absent."[9] The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal have provided refutations of Rangel's assertions by providing enlistment figures which show that the all-volunteer military has higher rates of HS graduates, college graduates, enrolled college students, middle- or higher-income background, and members of white ethnicity, than those of the overall US population. [10] [11]

In 2003, Rangel introduced HR 163; legislation that would draft both men and women between the ages of 18-26 starting as early as June 2005. It was defeated 402-2 the following year in the House of Representatives, with Rangel voting against his own bill. [12]

In November 2006, he outlined his proposed bill to reinstate the draft. If the bill, which is due to be brought before Congress in early 2007, is passed, men and women in the United States between the ages of 18-42 would have the possibility of being drafted. Polls show 7 out of 10 Americans oppose a reinstatement of the draft.[13] In an interview on Face the Nation, Rangel emphasized that people could fulfill their draft obligations through non-military services, such as port and airline security.[1]

[edit] Human and civil rights actions

Rangel is also noteworthy for his willingness to risk arrest for participating in political protests.

In the 1980s, Rangel was arrested for participating in an anti-apartheid rally in front of the South African Embassy in Washington.[14]

On March 15, 1999, Congressman Rangel was arrested along with two other prominent African-American leaders (civil rights activist Al Sharpton and former Mayor David Dinkins), for protesting the fatal shooting of Amadou Diallo, an African-American, by four white New York City police officers. [15]

On July 13, 2004, he was the first of three sitting US House members to be arrested on trespassing charges, for protesting alleged human rights abuses in Sudan in front of the Sudanese Embassy in Washington. Later in the week of July 13, 2004, Congressman Bobby Rush of Illinois and Congressman Joe Hoeffel of Pennsylvania were also arrested there.

[edit] Controversies

Rangel caused controversy on February 13, 2005, by calling Bill Clinton a redneck in response to Hillary Clinton's refusal to support his views on the Amadou Diallo case.[16]

On September 22, 2005, Rangel compared Republican President George W. Bush to Bull Connor, the former Public Safety Commissioner of Birmingham, Alabama, stating: "George Bush is our Bull Connor." In response, Vice President Dick Cheney, during an interview on the Rush Limbaugh radio program on October 3, 2005, stated: "I'm frankly surprised at his comments. It almost struck me — they were so out of line, it almost struck me that there was some — Charlie was having some problem. Charlie is losing it, I guess." Rangel responded by saying, "The fact that he would make a crack at my age, he ought to be ashamed of himself...He should look so good at 75." [17]

Along with John Conyers, in April 2006 Rangel brought an action against George W. Bush and others alleging violations of the Constitution in the passing of the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005[18]. The case (Conyers v. Bush) was ultimately dismissed[19].

In response to Hugo Chávez addressing the UN General Assembly on September 20, 2006 and implying that Bush was the devil, Rangel said, "I want President Chávez to please understand that even though many people in the United States are critical of our president that we resent the fact that he would come to the United States and criticize President Bush... you don't come into my country, you don't come into my congressional district and you don't condemn my president."[20]

Rangel again expressed his displeasure with Vice-President Cheney on October 30, 2006, by opining that Cheney is "a real son of a bitch" who "enjoys a confrontation." He also suggested that Cheney requires professional treatment for mental defects.[21]

On November 9, 2006, Rangel, in announcing some of his plans as new chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said he planned to push more funds into his home state of New York. He added to this, "Mississippi gets more than their fair share back in federal money, but who the hell wants to live in Mississippi?" Mississippi Rep. Chip Pickering demanded an apology and Rangel issued a statement declaring: "I certainly don't mean to offend anyone. I just love New York so much that I can't understand why everyone wouldn't want to live here."[22]

On November 26, 2006, appearing on the television show Fox News Sunday, Rangel stated: "If a young fellow has an option of having a decent career, or joining the Army to fight in Iraq, you can bet your life that he would not be in Iraq,"[23]. These comments were viewed by many, most notably The Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal's James Taranto, as insulting and condescending to America's servicemen and women. The comments were made in response to a question regarding a study that showed that those serving in the military tended to be better educated than the U.S. population as a whole [24].

[edit] Legislation sponsored by Rangel

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ U.S. News & World Report: "Rep. Charles Rangel (New York)–Ways and Means Committee." Retrieved March 16, 2007.
  2. ^ Audrey Hudson, "Veterans on Hill support Iraq hit", The Washington Times, October 3, 2002
  3. ^ CBS News: "Honoring Black Korean War Troops." Retrieved March 16, 2007.
  4. ^ a b "Charles Rangel / Politician, social activist." Retrieved March 16, 2007.
  5. ^ Alpha Phi "World Policy Council Statement on the Middle East Conflict." Retrieved March 16, 2007.
  6. ^
  7. ^ Devlin Barrett. "Rangel: I'll quit Congress if Democrats lose", Associated Press, August 2, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-11-20.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Bring Back the Draft", New York Times, December 31, 2002. Retrieved on 2006-11-21.
  10. ^ Who Bears the Burden. Heritage Foundation (November 7, 2005). Retrieved on 2006-11-20.
  11. ^ Uncle Charlie Wants You! , The Wall Street Journal editorial, November 25, 2006
  12. ^ John Heilprin (November 19, 2006). Rep. Rangel Will Seek to Reinstate Draft. Retrieved on 2006-11-20.
  13. ^ Top Democrat: Bring back the draft. (November 19, 2006). Retrieved on 2006-11-20.
  14. ^ Devlin Barrett. "Rep. Rangel arrested in protest outside Sudanese embassy", Associated Press, July 13, 2004. Retrieved on 2006-11-20.
  15. ^ Ikimulisa Sockwell. "Dinkins, Rangel busted at Diallo protest", New York Post, March 16, 1999, p. 4.
  16. ^ Rangel Blasts Clinton as 'a Redneck' (February 15, 2005). Retrieved on 2006-11-20.
  17. ^ Sara Kugler. "Rangel: Cheney should be 'ashamed' for age remark", Associated Press, October 5, 2005. Retrieved on 2006-11-20.
  18. ^ Associated Press. "11 House Members to Sue Over Budget Bill", ABC News, 2006-04-27. Retrieved on 2007-02-20.
  19. ^ Associated Press. "Judge Dismisses Budget Bill Lawsuit", ABC News, 2006-11-06. Retrieved on 2006-11-28.
  20. ^ Ian James. "Bush critics condemn Chavez reference to Bush as 'The devil'", Associated Press, September 22, 2006. Retrieved on 2006-11-20.
  21. ^ Kerry Reloads in Dogfight Over Snipe at Troops in Iraq (October 31, 2006). Retrieved on 2006-11-20.
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^

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Preceded by
Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 18th congressional district

Succeeded by
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Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from New York's 15th congressional district

Succeeded by

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