Rep. Charles Rangel was arrested Tuesday afternoon while protesting for immigration reform in Washington, D.C.
Rangel, the veteran Harlem congressman, was one of seven U.S. representatives arrested around 4:15 p.m. during a protest on the National Mall, which called for passage of a comprehensive immigration reform bill.
He tweeted around 6:50 p.m. that he had been released from custody.
In a phone interview with Spectator earlier in the day, Rangel, 83, said he wasn’t sure if he would run for re-election in 2014. Last year, Rangel faced the toughest re-election fight of his 22-term career in a new district that had a higher percentage of Hispanic voters and included parts of the Bronx.
Next year, “people could be saying that Rangel has served too long and that a younger person should be considered,” he said. “By the same token, some might be saying, as I’ve heard, that a new member might be eaten alive by the Tea Party, and the president needs experienced support.”
Either way, Rangel said he wasn’t planning to make up his mind yet.
“I really think it’s premature for me to evaluate what the political situation is going to be in my congressional district,” he said.
Rangel also discussed the federal government shutdown, which entered its eighth day Tuesday with no deal to reopen government in sight. He said he thought that Rep. John Boehner, the speaker of the House, would eventually cave to pressure to put up for a vote a resolution to end the shutdown.
“He’s going to take the bill to the floor whether he has the majority of the Republicans or not,” Rangel said, adding that he thought the Affordable Care Act would not be touched.
“The president should ask him, ‘Do you really think I’m going to delay a legislation that’s already passed, that’s already funded, that’s already been approved by the Supreme Court?’”
And while the Affordable Care Act has had issues in its rollout over the past week—not everyone who wanted to sign up was able to—Rangel compared the issues and the controversy over health care reform with those associated with Social Security in the mid-1900s.
“Republicans said Social Security was socialism,” he said, adding, “It’s no surprise to me that these handful of people who are against the government, they’re calling affordable care ‘socialist.’”
Despite the inside-the-beltway focus on the shutdown and the Affordable Care Act, Rangel said the immigration bill is one of his top priorities. The protest at which he was arrested is part of a national effort to urge Congress to take up the bill. Members of the Columbia University Democrats participated at a similar rally in Brooklyn on Saturday.