House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) intends to take it easy on Florida Rep. Trey Radel after the Republican freshman pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges of cocaine possession. His office said not to expect a call for resignation or any disciplinary action.
Shockingly, Radel waited three weeks after he was busted before telling Boehner. An aide to the Speaker said Radel first contacted Boehner regarding the matter on Tuesday, to set up a meeting, but that Politico broke the story on his charges before the two were able to meet.
“Congressman Radel informed the Speaker yesterday,” said the aide, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “They had a meeting. He had asked for the meeting yesterday before it became public but it didn’t happen until after.”
The Boehner aide declined to comment further on the meeting and indicated that the Speaker wouldn’t call on Radel to resign, and would instead leave it up to the congressman, his family and his constituents to determine his future. Radel’s guilty plea in court, which led to a $250 fine and one year of supervised probation, hasn’t changed the Speaker’s mind.
“I think this is being viewed as a substance abuse or an addiction issue,” the aide said, “much like when Patrick Kennedy drove his car back into a concrete barrier back in 2006.”
The comparison was a response to Democratic critics who are taking shots at Boehner for his soft-touch approach to Radel’s ethical lapse. Kennedy, a former Democratic congressman, crashed his car into a Capitol Hill barricade late at night on May 4, 2006 and later plead guilty to being intoxicated, according to reports at the time. He admitted he was addicted to prescription drugs and checked himself in a rehab facility. The Democratic Party stood by him and he continued to serve in Congress until retiring in Jan. 2011.
Beyond that, the Boehner aide stood by his office’s statement Tuesday: “Members of Congress should be held to the highest standards, and the alleged crime will be handled by the courts. Beyond that, this is between Rep. Radel, his family, and his constituents.”
Earlier instances of ethical lapses by Republicans under Boehner’s watch have led to swift resignations. In Feb. 2011, Rep. Chris Lee (R-NY) was caught having posted shirtless photos of himself on Craigslist, ostensibly in an attempt to meet women, and quickly stepped down (although Boehner denied having forced him out). Earlier, in 2010, while Boehner was still minority leader, Rep. Mark Souder (R-IN) admitted to having an affair and likewise promptly resigned.
Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, fired off a series of tweets Wednesday needling the Speaker for letting Radel off the hook.
— Jesse Ferguson (@JesseFFerguson) November 20, 2013
Radel wouldn’t say a word to reporters as he left the D.C. court house on Wednesday, declining to answer questions about whether he’d resign or what he would do next. The congressman is expected to hold a 10:30 p.m. press conference Cape Coral, Florida.