House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Thursday declined to call on Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., to resign following his guilty plea for cocaine possession.
Boehner reiterated his previous statement that “members of Congress should be held to the highest ethical standards” and that “at this point... the issue is between he and his family and his constituents.”
Pelosi similarly told reporters that she would not suggest Radel resign, calling it “a decision that he and his family and caucus have to make.”
After being arrested for cocaine possession on Oct. 29, Radel on Wednesday pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year of minimally supervised probation and ordered to pay a $250 fine to a victims' compensation fund. He announced Wednesday night that he was taking a leave of absence and entering a treatment program.
The incident has been cast as a substance abuse problem, rather than an ethics problem, prompting some comparisons between Radel and former Rep. Patrick Kennedy, D-R.I., who crashed his car into a U.S. Capitol barricade in 2006 and pleaded guilty to driving under the influence of prescription drugs. Kennedy entered rehabilitation after that but remained in office. He checked into a treatment program again in 2009 and announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2010.
Pelosi said Thursday that comparing Radel to Kennedy was “setting a very high standard,” given that Kennedy used his substance abuse problems as a platform to spur policy reforms. He was a champion of the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008, which bolstered coverage requirements for mental health and substance use disorder benefits.
While House leaders aren’t calling on Radel to resign, his local newspaper is. The Ft. Myers-based News-Press published an editorial on Wednesday declaring that Radel “embarrassed the voters who put their faith and trust in him.”
“Radel, who ran on family values, must resign immediately,” the paper said. “He can no longer be an effective leader and represent the people of Southwest Florida.”
Radel’s wife Amy Radel released a statement Thursday afternoon, calling the support she and Radel have received “overwhelming.”
“Your positive, uplifting encouragement is helping us get through this difficult time,” she said. “While this has been heart-breaking, I am proud to watch my husband, Trey, get the help he needs. When we married, we took vows to remain together in good times and bad, in sickness and health. I know that brighter days are ahead for my husband, our family and our beloved home of Southwest Florida. I ask you to please respect my privacy as we try to heal as a family, most especially for our 2-year old.”