Updated at 10:15 am EST
Trey Radel, the Florida Republican representative who pled guilty in November to charges of cocaine possession in Washington, will resign from Congress today, a departure that had started to take on an air of when, not if.
Radel will resign today, spokesman Greg Dolan said in an e-mail. He’ll send a letter to House Speaker John Boehner, and will probably be officially out by sunset.
It’s a reversal for Radel, who had said he planned to stay in the House even as several Republicans said they planned to challenge him in a primary election. House lawmakers, meanwhile, took the first steps that could’ve led to kicking him out.
The House Ethics Committee in December convened an investigative subcommittee to determine any “law, rule, regulation, or applicable standard of conduct in the performance of his duties.” It wasn’t really a question of if the ethics panel would’ve found him in violation of the law — he pled guilty to criminal charges, so that point was largely moot.
The House, using that evidence, could’ve formally reprimanded or censured Radel or, with a two-thirds vote, expelled him. Expelling a member is quite rare, and probably wouldn’t have happened. It’s only been done five times, according to the Congressional Research Service — three of those were Democrats expelled during the Civil War for disloyalty to the Union. The most recent one was Ohio Democrat James Traficant, booted in 2002 for bribery and tax evasion. He would later serve seven years in prison.
Radel, following his conviction, took a leave of absence and went to a rehabilitation facility in Florida. He apologized to his House Republican colleagues when he returned to Washington in January.
Candidates already have lined up for his seat.
Paige Kreegel, a former state legislator who sought the office in 2012 and whose backers have formed a super-political action committee that has reported raising more than $1 million, is seeking the Republican nomination in Florida’s 19th District, a Republican bastion in and around Fort Myers and Cape Coral.
“We need accountability, we need experience, we need sobriety,” Kreegel said in an e-mail to Political Capital on Jan. 4. “We need judgment,” Kreegel said. “It is NOT about Radel. It is about the 795,000 folks in the district. They deserve better.”
Political Capital first reported Dec. 31 that a super-PAC called “Values are Vital” raised $1 million last month from two people who donated to Kreegel’s 2012 campaign.
PAC chairman Anthony Farhat, a Florida developer and Kreegel friend who also donated to his 2012 campaign, told Political Capital he organized the PAC so that Republican voters won’t “make the same mistake twice.”
– Greg Giroux contributed to this report.