The Associated Press is reporting that the House ethics committee's chief counsel recommended Thursday that veteran Rep. Charles Rangel be censured for financial and fundraising misconduct as lawmakers neared closure on an embarrassing 2½-year-long scandal. Chief counsel Blake Chisam called for the punishment despite the veteran New York congressman's plea, in a prepared statement in advance of the hearing, for "a drop of fairness and mercy." If Chisam's recommendation is carried out, it would be the most serious punishment short of expulsion that could be meted out by the House. Chisam and Rangel argued their positions at a public hearing on sanctions, where the 80-year-old congressman acknowledged making mistakes in handling his finances and said he wasn't there to "retry this case." Chisam said Rangel "brought discredit" upon the House and that his actions "served to undermine public confidence in this institution." The committee recessed for a floor vote and planned to reconvene later Thursday to continue discussion and hold a closed session to discuss Chisam's recommendation. Rep. John Lewis spoke on Rangel's behalf, calling him a "decent" man. Who knew that decency and ethics were mutually exclusive?

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