Pelosi: GOP should rethink food stamp bill in wake of Radel scandal

Republicans should rethink their approach to food stamp policy in the wake of Rep. Trey Radel's recent drug arrest, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Tuesday.

Radel, a freshman Florida Republican, was arrested in Washington on Oct. 29 for possession of cocaine. Pelosi characterized the scandalous episode as "really interesting," coming "on the heels of Republicans voting to make sure that everybody who had access to food stamps was drug tested." 

"It's, like, what? To get food stamps you have to be drug tested?" Pelosi said in an interview with BuzzFeed at a bar in Washington's Adams Morgan neighborhood. "And so I hope that it will humanize, shall we say, their thinking about some subjects."

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Passed in September, the Republicans food stamp bill generated the most headlines for cutting the program by roughly $40 billion over the next decade – a sharp contrast to the $4 billion cuts contained in the Senate Democratic bill. But there were other differences between the chambers' approaches, including the House stipulation that beneficiaries of food stamps must first be drug tested.

Republicans defended the provision as a common-sense approach that would ensure taxpayer dollars would not be frittered by substance abusers. But the language caused some Democrats to wonder why the same requirement wasn't stipulated for the farmers receiving federal subsidies. Or for members of Congress.

The food stamp bill passed the House by a vote of 217 to 210. Radel voted in favor of it.

Pelosi on Tuesday did not weigh in on Radel's future, saying only that GOP leaders "will have to deal with it."

"For anyone, … it's hard to make judgments about your peers," she said. "But the fact is there are certain things, especially in Congress, where we hold ourselves to a higher standard in terms of these issues. And you just have to act upon them."

Radel issued a statement Tuesday evening saying the arrest was the result of his troubles with alcohol. 

"In facing this charge, I realize the disappointment my family, friends and constituents must feel," he said. "I stand ready to face the consequences of my actions." 

He is scheduled for a court appearance in D.C. on Wednesday morning.