Commentary: Waters, Rangel must answer ethics charges

Serving in Congress is one of the great privileges of our republic. Members of Congress are there to do the public's work. But one of the sad truths is that in some congressional districts, incumbents are so entrenched that they can get away with almost anything.

When voters don't penalize miscreants, it is up to Congress to ensure that justice is served.

Now we have two longtime House Democrats -- Maxine Waters of Los Angeles and Charles Rangel of New York -- being accused of serious ethics breaches. They could face punishment ranging from a reprimand to expulsion from the House. If the most serious counts are proven, they should be kicked out.

The chairwoman of the House ethics committee, Zoe Lofgren, a San Jose Democrat, promises to follow the facts and the law, no matter where they lead. That solemn vow must be kept by her and the other nine committee members, who will hear the cases, decide if the allegations are true and recommend action to the full House.

Barring settlements, the ethics trials, the first since 2002, are expected in September for Rangel and late this year for Waters.

Both Waters and Rangel are Democrats seeking re-election this fall, so the timing could not be worse for the party, scrambling to hang on to its majorities in Congress under a full assault from energized Republicans.

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