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Friday morning docket: Heat on House member

Lawmakers have just one more week of work before heading out for summer recess, but one congressman might be feeling the heat a little more than others.

New York Rep. Charlie Rangel has been hit with charges of ethics violations by investigators for the House Committee on Standards and Official Conduct. The move means the 20-term Democrat – who is also running for reelection – will face a trial-like proceeding with House counsel acting as prosecutors and Rangel being defended by his own lawyers. The investigation into alleged ethical lapses by Rangel caused him to relinquish the chairmanship of the powerful House Ways and Means committee earlier this year.

Although the panel has not specified what charges Rangel will face, the lawmaker has been under fire for allegedly failing to pay taxes on a Caribbean home, failing to fully disclose assets, and using a New York rent-controlled apartment for political purposes. Rangel has denied any wrongdoing, and yesterday said the upcoming hearing is “what I’ve been waiting for.”

“It gives me an opportunity to respond to my friends and constituents who have supported me for 40 years,” Rangel said. “All I’ve been able to give them is ‘trust me.’ ”

The House ethics trial process hasn’t been used since 2002 when Ohio Rep. James Traficant faced the ethics panel. He was later convicted of racketeering.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court junkies looking for a reason to have a piece of cake today can celebrate the fact that Justice Anthony Kennedy turns 74 today. Happy birthday, Justice!

In other news:

Jobless benefits bill passed: The House of Representatives voted 272-152 Thursday to pass a bill that restores unemployment benefits for 2.5 million Americans. (Courthouse News Service)

Crushing animal cruelty, take two: After their first attempt was struck down by the Supreme Court as overbroad, the House has passed new, narrower legislation to outlaw video depictions of animal torture. (Detroit Free Press)

Longer arm for lawsuits: Legislation that would make it easier for victims of defective foreign-made products to file suit against foreign manufacturers has been advanced by a House committee. (Lawyers USA)

Arbitration curbs: The sweeping financial overhaul legislation signed into law Wednesday by President Barack Obama contains a provision that allows federal regulators to limit the use of pre-dispute mandatory arbitration clauses in financial contracts. (Lawyers USA)

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