Boehner Praises Rangel?
In a Capitol Portrait Ceremony, collegiality ruled in honor of the former Ways and Means chairman.
In fact, Boehner was warm and gracious. "Charlie and I considered each other friends literally from the first days I was here in the House," he said. "We don't always see eye to eye, but over the years we have talked virtually every day on the floor. We both love the people's House. On most occasions, Charlie and I always understood each other real well."
Turning to Rangel, he addressed him personally: "I know that we're proud of you, proud of your accomplishments and" -- no sense in going overboard -- "I hope you have an enjoyable evening."
There it was. Not anywhere near as effusive as the remarks of some of Rangel's Democratic colleagues. But Boehner's words were remarkable for their lack of rancor, for their recognition of a political opponent as a personal friend, and they went over well with many in the room.
"At heart, most people want to be collegial," said Denise Burgess, a federal planning consultant and a former diplomat, commenting on the spirit of goodwill she was perceiving. "But we've forgotten how to disagree in ways that are not insulting to the other person."
Added one former House staffer, a veteran of many House battles: "[Boehner] wants to maintain the integrity of the House, while others are here to tear it down."
Boehner and five or six aides left through a door at the back of the room, moving so rapidly it seemed as if they were being sucked out of the room.
But the current Ways and Means chairman, Rep. David Camp (R-Mich.), acting as master of ceremonies, added to the feel-good atmosphere with some warm remarks of his own about Rangel. ("Most people recall Charlie battling the Chinese Army," he said, referring to Rangel's storied military career in the Korean War, for which he won a Bronze Star and a Purple Heart.)
Finally, Rangel's wife, Alma, pulled the drapes away from the portrait to reveal a striking likeness of the congressman standing and holding a gavel. The picture, painted by Silver Spring, Md., portraitist Simmie Knox at a cost of $64,500 (paid for with campaign funds), will probably always be notable for the 150-watt smile on Rangel's face, a challenge to the frowns on the faces in the other portraits around the room.
What now for Rangel? Chief of Staff George Henry confirmed the widespread rumor that Rangel will run again next year, for his 22nd term. What's Rangel's legislative program? Henry made a sour expression. "Legislation? There is no legislation. Not in this Congress."
Edmund Newton is a freelance journalist based in the Washington area.