WASHINGTON — The House of Representatives voted to censure Rep. Charles B. Rangel, D-N.Y., on Thursday, the first such rebuke for a sitting lawmaker in 27 years.
The 333-79 vote matches the recommendation of the House Ethics Committee, which found in its investigation that Rangel was guilty of 11 violations of House rules, including failure to declare rental income from a Dominican Republic villa, improper solicitation of donations on congressional letterhead and misuse of a rent-controlled Harlem apartment as a campaign office.
An earlier vote to reduce the penalty to a reprimand failed by a vote of 267-146, though a majority of Democrats supported the motion.
During a brief speech to his colleagues before that vote, Rangel made the case that the committee's investigation found no evidence of corruption.
"I have made serious mistakes. I do believe rules are made to be enforced. I do believe that we in Congress have a higher responsibility than most people," he said. "But if you're breaking new ground, I ask for fairness."
Censure is the stiffest penalty a member can face short of expulsion. Other Democrats argued that Republicans had been reprimanded for more severe violations, including former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
Even a Republican, Rep. Peter King of New York, said the House was breaking from precedent.
"Let us apply the same standard of justice to Charlie Rangel that has been applied to everyone else and that we would want applied to us," he said.
But Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., chair of the Ethics Committee, said censure was indeed the appropriate sanction and was in keeping with members' promises in recent campaigns to uphold a higher standard of ethics.
The last time the House voted for censure was in 1983, when two lawmakers were charged with inappropriate sexual behavior with congressional pages.
Despite the Ethics Committee's investigation, Rangel was re-elected to a 21st term in November.