Reps. Kennedy and Sullivan Out of Rehab
Updated, 3:28 p.m.
Reps. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and John Sullivan (R-Okla.), both of whom spent the past month in substance abuse treatment programs, are returning to Capitol Hill this week.
An aide to Sullivan tells the Sleuth the Oklahoma congressman has completed his rehabilitation at the Betty Ford Center in California and has returned to work in his predominantly Christian conservative district, which is home to Oral Roberts University.
Sullivan issued a letter today to his supporters, which was posted on his reelection campaign Web site, saying, "My time at the Betty Ford Center gave me the opportunity to reflect on my life and afforded me a clearer perspective on what is truly important: God, family, friends and service to others. Although this was certainly not what I had planned for my life it has turned out to be something that has strengthened me."
Likewise, Rep. Kennedy, in a telephone interview with The Sleuth this morning, said he's returning to the House this week reinvigorated and more spiritually awakened.
"I totally surrendered to my powerlessness over the illness," Kennedy told us. "The fact [is], I can't do it by myself and need a higher power to help me. I get on my knees every morning and pray for that help."
Kennedy, who turns 42 next week, underwent a 28-day program at Father Martin's Ashley addiction treatment center in Havre de Grace, Md., about an hour-and-a-half outside of the District. It was his second time undergoing a drug and alcohol addiction treatment program.
The close proximity of Havre de Grace to Washington allowed him to make a surprise visit to Capitol Hill two weeks ago to cast a vote on the energy bill, which was a crucial legislative priority of President Obama and the Democratic congressional leadership. Democratic leaders also managed to woo the ailing Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was recuperating from surgery, to the House chamber to vote on the bill.
"Nancy was really working those votes," Kennedy joked of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. "They grabbed him (Lewis) and rolled him out of the hospital, grabbed me and rolled me in.... Then they put me right back in a van and shuffled me back to rehab." (Lewis's office would like to emphasize that Kennedy's comment was a joke; the congressman was not in the hospital, he was recuperating at home from back surgery.)
Kennedy was released from treatment last week. He said he spent a "wonderful Fourth of July holiday with my Dad" on Cape Cod. Kennedy's father, Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who is battling brain cancer, has been largely absent from the Senate.
"He's doing great," Patrick Kennedy said.
Today the Rhode Island congressman is traveling to Minnesota to attend a funeral for the father of former congressman Jim Ramstad, who is Kennedy's sponsor in Alcoholics Anonymous. The funeral is scheduled for tomorrow.
Kennedy says he plans to be back on Capitol Hill in time for House votes late Tuesday afternoon, when Congress is slated to return from its Fourth of July recess.
The congressman says he is "excited to be back" and is feeling "healthy and focused on health care and other issues that I've been most interested in and passionate about. I've got my special niche in the area of mental health and substance abuse, which I've been most interested in seeing incorporated into the overall health care reform bill that's coming up later this summer."
Mary Ann Akers
July 6, 2009; 1:11 PM ET
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