The 65 year-old had been serving in the House, representing Ohio’s 8th District since 1991, yet his seniority and leadership roles have not been able to quell dissent from conservatives in the party, most recently revolving around funding for Planned Parenthood potentially leading to a shutdown. Over 30 members of the House threatened a no-confidence vote over the Planned Parenthood issue; with such a vote meaning that Boehner would have to rely on Democratic votes to remain as Speaker next term.
After nearly five years of serving as the U.S. Speaker of the House and President Obama’s professional foil, John Boehner (R-OH) is resigning from his leadership position and his seat in Congress after October 30th. The 65 year-old had been serving in the House, representing Ohio’s 8th District since 1991, yet his seniority and leadership roles have not been able to quell dissent from conservatives in the party, most recently revolving around funding for Planned Parenthood potentially leading to a shutdown. Over 30 members of the House threatened a no-confidence vote over the Planned Parenthood issue; with such a vote meaning that Boehner would have to rely on Democratic votes to remain as Speaker next term. Former Speaker and current House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the announcement “seismic.” Boehner said that he only intended on being speaker for two terms, but when former House Minority Leader Eric Cantor unexpectedly lost his primary election in 2014, Boehner agreed to serve one more term. Although Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), a relative newcomer to Congress, is the front-runner to replace Boehner, many believe that race to still be wide open.
Boehner’s resignation will temporarily ease those fears as he now has the freedom to introduce a temporary spending bill that will pass despite the threat of a conservative revolt. The Freedom Caucus, the bloc that threatened the shutdown, will vote for the bill despite their objections, with Representative John Fleming (R-LA) confirming, “The commitment has been made that there will be no shutdown. In a statement following the announcement, Boehner said, “It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on October 30.” According to Boehner, the decision to resign was not an orchestrated plan, but instead was a result of divine inspiration. On Thursday, Boehner stood with the Pope on Capitol Hill during the pontiff’s historic visit to the U.S. with the Speaker donning his trademark weeping style. A top aide to Boehner told CNN that he and others were not informed until Thursday evening, with the aide adding that, “After yesterday with the Pope, he decided to leave on this high note.” More tears flowed when Boehner made the announcement during a closed door session as he followed his meeting with the prayer of Saint Francis, in honor of the Pope’s visit.
Although Boehner’s leadership was highly influential in the landscape-altering (highbrow pun intended) 2010 Congressional election that brought the fomenting Tea Party to Washington, it was many of those elements that continuously threatened his standing as the House’s undisputed leader. Most notably, conservatives in the house along with Texas’s firebrand Senator Ted Cruz led the 16-day partial government shutdown over Obamacare funding in October 2013, widening the gulf between the bloc and the more moderate Boehner. Both Cruz and Florida Senator and fellow Republican 2016 presidential candidate Marco Rubio took turns bashing Cruz at the Values Voters Summit in Washington about an hour after Boehner’s announcement. Rubio told the cheering crowd, “I’m not here to bash anyone, but the time has come to turn the page.” Cruz told the grassroots movement at the summit, “Yesterday, John Boehner was Speaker of the House. Y’all come to town and somehow that changes. My only request is, can you come more often?” Representative Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) expressed his frustration with the Speaker’s ability to counter President Obama, saying “He’s run circles around us since John Boehner was speaker of the House,” calling the resignation “a victory for the American people.”
Still Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was much more gracious despite not always agreeing with the Speaker, saying that Boehner “never, ever misled me,” and that, “His word was always good.” Representative Greg Walden (R-OR) chair of the National Republican Congressional Committee spoke for many moderates in the House, saying “If this was a message from God, I wish he’d send a different message.” McConnell joined Walden in expressing concerns of the Tea Party’s influence in the House, with McConnell praising Boehner’s ability to compromise, comparing his ability on that front to President Reagan. Even Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV), waxed positive about the Ohio Republican, adding “To say that I will miss John Boehner is a tremendous understatement.” This came from the man who famously called Boehner a dictator just a few years ago. Another former vocal critic of the House’s leadership in the past, New York Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer called Boehner, “a decent, principled conservative man who tried to do the right thing under almost impossible circumstances.” Some of the platitudes, however, may be a subtle jab at the conservative wing of the House, who are more than likely going to be able to wrestle even more power away from Congressional moderates in the wake of the Speaker’s resignation.
BBC News – Anthony Zurcher
CNN – Dana Bash, Manu Raju, Deirdre Walsh and Jeremy Diamond
The Atlantic – Russell Berman
Washington Post – Mike DeBonis and Paul Kane