Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.), who has been found guilty of ethics violations, could become the congressman to be censured since 1983 if the full House of Representatives approves the punishment recommended by the congressional ethics committee.
The censure, which is short of expulsion, would require Rangel to stand in the well of the House while the speaker of the House reads the censure resolution.
Rangel's troubles began in July 2008, when news reports revealed several tax and ethics violations committed by the congressman.
Among other things, the media reported Rangel had used rent-stabilized apartment as a campaign office, had failed to pay taxes on rental income from the Caribbean villa and had concealed information of hundreds of thousands of dollars in assets on his financial disclosure forms.
As his personal finances were scrutinized in the months that followed, Rangel, who resigned as the chairman of the tax-writing Ways and Means Committee, was also charged with improperly raising funds for a City College of New York building to be named in his honor as he had used Congressional stationery and staff, sought donations from corporations with business before his committee and helped extend a tax loophole worth hundreds of millions of dollars for an oil company at the same time he was asking for a $1 million contribution from its top executive.
On Nov. 18, the House of Representatives Ethics Committee found Rangel guilty on a 9-1 vote and recommended that he be censured. The Committee also recommended that Rangel should make restitution for any unpaid taxes.
The 10-member committee - five Democrats and five Republicans - rendered its ruling after convicting Rangel on 11 ethics violations on Nov. 16.
Rangel acknowledged before the committee that he had made numerous mistakes but said corruption and personal enrichment are certainly not part of my mistakes.
He also noted that the panel's chief counsel, Blake Chisam, had testified he had found no evidence of corruption, but instead, sloppy record-keeping.
Chisam had told the committee that Rangel's ethics violations brought discredit to the House and undermined public confidence in it.
He demonstrated a lack of attention and carelessness over a broad range of issues over a lengthy period of time, Chisam said.
If censured, Rangel will be the first member to receive such punishment since 1983, when two congressmen were rebuked for sexual misconduct with House pages. Rangel would be required to stand in the well of the House while the speaker reads a resolution rebuking him.
Rangel's constituents, however, want to keep the charismatic and well respected Democrat congressman who won a 21st two-year term with 80 percent of the vote in the November 2 election - even as his fellow Democrats lost control of the House to Republicans.
Rangel, who for 40 years has represented Harlem, is also a decorated veteran of the Korean War, a former U.S. prosecutor, a civil rights advocate and founding member of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The full House will decide on the committee's recommendation after its Thanksgiving recess.
Meanwhile, another prominent House Democrat, Maxine Waters of California, is also set to go on trial before a House ethics panel on November 29. She has been charged with improperly helping a bank where her husband has an investment.
The fact that two top Democrats face trials within two weeks is embarrassing for their party, particularly since such proceedings are rare. In 2002, Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio) got expelled from Congress after being convicted in a federal court of bribery and racketeering. He served an 8-year prison sentence and was released in August this year.