By Mike Lillis - 11/21/13 03:00 PM EST
Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is playing partisan politics in his decision not to pursue ethics charges against fellow GOP Rep. Trey Radel (Fla.), Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) charged.
Boehner, who aggressively went after Rangel over ethics charges several years ago, has so far taken a hands-off approach with Radel, a freshman lawmaker who pleaded guilty Wednesday to cocaine possession.
"If the leadership can find any way to explain this besides politics, I certainly would like to hear it," Rangel said.
As House minority leader in 2008, Boehner led the charge against Rangel when the New York Democrat was under fire for occupying four rent-stabilized apartments in his Harlem district. Boehner sponsored a resolution censuring Rangel, which was blocked by the Democrats, who controlled the House at the time.
Roughly two years later, after additional charges had mounted, the House voted to censure Rangel for bringing discredit to the chamber. He was the first member to face such discipline in almost 30 years.
Radel was detained in Washington late last month after buying cocaine from an undercover police officer. He pled guilty Wednesday morning and was sentenced to probation for a year.
At a press conference in Florida Wednesday night, Radel announced he will take a leave of absence from Congress while he seeks treatment, but has no plans to give up his seat.
Boehner on Thursday suggested he won't intervene in the matter.
“As you all know, I believe that members of Congress should be held to the highest ethical standards,” Boehner said. “I think at this point, Mr. Radel – the issue is between he, his family and his constituents.”
Rangel said he's not surprised at Boehner's approach – neither now nor then – but argued that his offenses pale in comparison to Radel's crime.
"It doesn't surprise me because there's no question in my mind … that politics control the Ethics Committee rather than the facts," Rangel said.
"There's no question in my mind that the failure to raise this charge [against Radel] as being an embarrassment to the House of Representatives, and the swiftness with which they decided that I should be censured, to me is consistent with their polarized political thinking."
In April, Rangel sued Boehner and the members of the Ethics Committee for what he called their "numerous flagrant, knowing and intentional violations" of his due process rights during the investigation that led to his censure. That case, he said Thursday, is still pending.
"I'm hoping that the federal district court, who's now reviewing my claim to adjust this matter, will soon respond," Rangel said.