POLITICS
11/19/2013 10:38 pm ET Updated Nov 20, 2013

House Rules Have Allowed Random Drug Testing Of Members Since 1997

Rep. Trey Radel's (R-Fla.) October arrest on a charge of cocaine possession made headlines on Tuesday when Politico broke the story.

Hours later, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said she found the news "really interesting," as House Republicans over the summer voted to let states drug test food stamp recipients. While the measure was passed by a voice vote, leaving individual votes unknown, Radel later voted in favor of a broader food stamp bill that included the amendment.

Something Pelosi may find even more interesting: House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) could have ordered a random drug test for Radel -- or any member of the House -- under a House rule established in 1997.

Check out the rule:

635. Drug testing in the House.
9. The Speaker, in consultation with the Minority Leader, shall develop through an appropriate entity of the House a system for drug testing in the House. The system may provide for the testing of a Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, officer, or employee of the House, and otherwise shall be comparable in scope to the system for drug testing in the executive branch pursuant to Executive Order 12564 (Sept. 15, 1986). The expenses of the system may be paid from applicable accounts of the House for official expenses.

A spokesman for Boehner said his office was unfamiliar with the provision, added by the 105th Congress, edited by the 106th Congress and redesignated from Clause 13 to Clause 9 by the 108th Congress.

In the weeks before the rule passed the House in 1997, Republican and Democratic members disputed the need for random drug tests. In late 1996, Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) told the Chicago Tribune that his Republican colleagues had "expressed reservations" about the rule.

"I'm not proposing it because I think there's a drug use problem among members of the House," Barton said. "But I do think role models count."

Arthur Delaney and Ryan Grim contributed reporting.

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