Contrite Republican takes break from Congress after drug bust

BY Christina Bellantoni  November 21, 2013 at 8:45 AM EST


Rep. Trey Radel, R-Fla., exits D.C. Superior court after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of possession of cocaine on Wednesday. Photo by Linda Davidson / The Washington Post via Getty Images

It’s not every day a “wakeup call” for a member of Congress involves getting busted for buying 3.5 grams of cocaine. But that’s what freshman Rep. Trey Radel called it late Wednesday night when announcing he would take a leave of absence from his work in the House to attend an intensive substance abuse program in Florida. He will donate his salary to charity.

The Florida Republican pleaded guilty Wednesday to misdemeanor possession of cocaine, as authorities revealed he’d tried to purchase the drugs for $250 from an undercover law enforcement officer at Circa, a Dupont Circle restaurant. He will be on probation for one year and must undergo treatment.

The Morning Line

Politico’s Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer note that Speaker John Boehner “has made swiftly dealing with bad behavior a signature of his leadership, at times working behind the scenes to orchestrate an exit or levy a punishment on lawmakers caught in ethical or legal mishaps,” but hasn’t done so in this case. Roll Call’s Matt Fuller and Hannah Hess, meanwhile, learned that Radel tried to meet with Boehner but wasn’t able to talk with him until after the news broke Tuesday.

The Washington Post has more detail:

During his late-night news conference Wednesday, Radel mentioned painful events in his past, including his mother’s alcoholism and her death from choking during his wedding reception. He said he is seeking “intensive inpatient” treatment but did not say how long the treatment or his leave of absence would last. During his absence, he said, he plans to donate his congressional salary to charity.

Radel spoke lovingly of his wife and son. But even as he focused on his troubles, he never dropped the sweeping language of a congressman. He would begin recovery not just for his family, he said, but for his district.

“I hope, like family, southwest Florida can forgive me for this. I’ve let them down,” Radel said. “But I do believe in faith, forgiveness and redemption.”
Talking Points Memo posts all the photos Radel has taken of himself as he’s traveled. The 37-year-old lawmaker, a former newscaster, built a name for himself on social media.

It’s not clear whether Radel’s actions will have longer lasting effects on his GOP caucus or his Sunshine State seat, but we’ll keep an eye on the story.

DEFENSE AUTHORIZATION BILL

Senators will return today to the Defense Authorization measure setting military policy and other matters, with amendments on how to curb sexual assault front-and-center in a heated debate. It’s unclear when the Senate will vote on the amendments, or the final passage of the measure, something that has senior lawmakers flustered.

Armed Services Chairman Sen. Carl Levin scolded colleagues Wednesday for slow-walking the process. If they don’t finish the bill before Thanksgiving, there will not be a conference report because both chambers are only in for one more week before the end of the year. It would be “the first time in 50 years” that Congress hasn’t passed a defense bill, the Michigan Democrat said. He suggested some of his colleagues were working to get “leverage” on their amendments amid political arguments. “Which I guess is the currency around here apparently,” Levin said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told Roll Call he would try to limit debate if there is “no hope” to get something finished.

The NewsHour examined the amendment to the Defense Authorization Act proposed by New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand that would take the decision to prosecute military sexual assault cases out of the chain of command. Kwame Holman notes the idea has some opposition from senators and military leaders.

Watch the segment here or below:


LINE ITEMS

  • Here are previews of NewsHour founders Robert MacNeil and Jim Lehrer remembering President Kennedy’s assassination 50 years later. The news duo talk candidly about the event and how it influenced their journalism careers on the show Thursday. Politico’s Patrick Gavin has more here. And don’t miss Pew Research Center’s Andrew Kohut giving detail about public opinion in JFK’s America five decades ago.

  • Politico’s Byron Tau finds out that a “vocal minority” was cheering on the idea of another government funding fight at a closed-door tea party caucus meeting. Tau writes that the consensus in the meeting was that House Republicans should work to avoid another government funding fight when current levels expire in January.

  • The Washington Post’s Sandhya Somashekhar and Ariana Eunjung Cha
    report in detail about the limited options in the health care exchanges and how that could affect care. And the NewsHour continued our series on people who have lost their insurance under the Affordable Care Act, and spoke with Julie Rovner of NPR.

  • New documents show administration officials were worried about the launch of HealthCare.gov.

  • What do Gloria Steinem, Oprah Winfrey, Bill Clinton and Ernie Banks have in common? Watch the NewsHour’s piece on President Barack Obama awarding the Medal of Freedom Wednesday here or below.


  • The Democratic National Committee boasted it raised just over $7 million in October, thanks to the 16-day partial government shutdown. But the Republican National Committee did about the same.

  • The president joined the Clintons to honor Kennedy at Arlington National Cemetery.

  • What’s happening to all the voter data collected by the 2012 Obama campaign? Politico’s Maggie Haberman takes a look at where this information, including “the big list of 20 million people,” is headed next.

  • Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., was attacked and robbed on the street near Capitol Hill.

  • The Washington Post’s Laura Vozzella and Ben Pershing take a close look at a Virginia inspector general’s investigation Wednesday into why the son of state Sen. Creigh Deeds was released from psychiatric care the day before he apparently stabbed his father and then fatally shot himself. Gov. Bob McDonnell also has directed his top health official to conduct a review of state and local mental health services in the wake of the incident.

  • Roll Call’s Kyle Trygstad talks to people in Wyoming about the Cheney sisters’ same-sex marriage squabble, and finds it hasn’t moved the needle.

  • The National Republican Senatorial Committee has fired the junior staffer responsible for a tweet that depicted the Kentucky secretary of state as “Obamagirl.”

  • Politico’s Manu Raju profiles Sen. Mike Lee, the Utah Republican who has been shrouded a bit in Sen. Ted Cruz’s shadow.

  • Politico’s David Rogers sees signs of progress in negotiations over the farm bill.

  • The liberal group Americans United for Change is launching a grassroots ad campaign targeting 26 lawmakers from both parties and asking them to oppose the Mortgage Choice Act that deals with lending practices.

  • As a young boy, now-tea party lawmaker Rep. Roger Williams, R-Texas, was one of the last people to shake President Kennedy’s hand the day he was assassinated.

  • How one AP writer ended up becoming a pall bearer at Lee Harvey Oswald’s funeral.

  • CNN makes a nifty interactive showing 24 hours at the Atlanta International Airport, the nation’s busiest.

NEWSHOUR: #notjustaTVshow

TOP TWEETS

For more political coverage, visit our politics page.

Sign up here to receive the Morning Line in your inbox every morning.

Questions or comments? Email Christina Bellantoni at cbellantoni-at-newshour-dot-org.

Follow the politics team on Twitter: