Ethics Charges Cloud Dems' Election Hopes

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As Congress wraps up work for summer break, brewing ethics charges against prominent House leader Rep. Charlie Rangel could spell more trouble for Democrats come November.

The House is shutting down for the month of August, while the Senate will join them after finishing business like the Supreme Court confirmation vote for Solictor General Elena Kagan.

During their break, lawmakers will be hearing from the voters and getting ready for midterm elections.

Republicans have dubbed August's summer recess as a time for Democrats to "run for cover," facing fears of a repeat of last year's angry town halls.

With health care reform now law, along with $13 trillion piled on to the federal debt, Democrats have more to worry about with less than 100 days until voters head to the polls.

Ethics charges against Rep. Rangel, D-N.Y., could make matters worse for Democrats.

"It's a very rough period for me and my family, but we all, including my community, we'll get by this," Rangel said this week.

Rangel is facing 13 counts of violating House rules, including failing to pay taxes on rental property he owns, even as he serves as the chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee.

Republicans have pounced on the issue, saying Democrats have broken their promise to make Congress more honest, open, and ethical.

"This isn't about Charlie Rangel. This is about (House) speaker Pelosi's most glaring promise that she's broken," House Republican Leader John Boehner said.

Democrats are fending off tough challenges in about 50 races across the country. Republicans only need to win 39 seats to gain control of the House.

Despite the math, Democrats are trying to project confidence.

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said on ABC's "Good Morning America" that Democrats will stay in control even after election day.

"I think this November is going to come down, quite frankly... to a choice: do you want to continue to move forward and make progress as we have in the Obama administration, or do you want to go back to the economic policies that got us into this mess," Gibbs said. "I think it's fairly simple choice come November. I think Democrats will be successful, and we'll keep the House and the Senate."

Republicans say they're eager to host town halls and public forums while Congress is on recess.

"Our members are going to fan out across the country and have a conversation with the American people," Rep. Mice Pence, R-Ind., said. "And when we come back this fall, you just wait and see, it's going to be a bold, bright agenda of ideas that are going to give the American people a real choice come election day."

A recent Gallup Poll shows Democrats running four to five points ahead among registered voters, which according to respected pollster Charlie Cook, "would mean a very, very close contest for control of the House" this November.

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John Jessup

John Jessup

CBN News Anchor

John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at