Top Republican John Boehner shocked Capitol Hill and America’s political establishment this morning by announcing that he plans to resign the speakership and his position in the House of Representatives as of October 30th, 2015.
“The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love,” said Boehner in an official statement released by his office. “It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House. 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.”
“Today, my heart is full with gratitude for my family, my colleagues, and the people of Ohio’s Eighth District. God bless this great country that has given me — the son of a bar owner from Cincinnati — the chance to serve.”
President Barack Obama has not yet reacted to Boehner’s decision to quit. But Democratic Leaders Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid (who is himself retiring) have.
“By ousting a good man like Speaker Boehner — someone who understood the art of compromise — the party of Eisenhower and Reagan is no more,” tweeted Reid, adding: “I wasn’t always happy with what Speaker Boehner told me, but he never, ever misled me. He never told me something that wasn’t true.”
Many Democrats would take issue with the characterization of Boehner as “a good man”, but, all things being relative, Boehner certainly seems well-grounded and reasonable compared to some of the rank-and-file in his caucus. They have long wanted Boehner gone. Now, they are getting their wish.
However, a day may come when they regret pushing him out.
Nancy Pelosi was more blunt, telling reporters, that the “resignation of the Speaker is a stark indication of the disarray of the House Republicans.”
Pelosi knows what it’s like to be in the hot seat. She became the first woman speaker in history in early 2007, and was memorably handed the gavel by John Boehner in January 2007. She had to give it back to Boehner four years later.
But despite losing the majority in the 2010 midterms, Pelosi stayed on as Democratic Leader, and ignored calls for her to step down. She resumed the role of House Minority Leader, which she held during most of the Bush years, and has since won plaudits for holding her caucus together. When she declared earlier this year that House Democrats would sustain President Obama’s veto to uphold the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran, reporters and political observers had no reason to doubt that she could not deliver on her guarantee.
Nancy Pelosi has survived some pretty tough losses. But she’s still around and still an effective legislator, despite not being speaker. John Boehner, on the other hand, couldn’t survive winning. His caucus got bigger in last year’s midterms, but that only created fresh problems for him. Apparently, he had intended to hand things over to Eric Cantor before the current Congress got going, but when Cantor was unexpectedly defeated in the Republican primary, those plans changed.
Boehner may wish for people to think he is leaving of his own accord and on his own terms, but the reality is, he’s being forced out. His own party is dumping him because he isn’t extreme and militant enough. That’s downright scary.
Arizona Senator John McCain, one of the GOP’s elder statesmen, gets it. Asked to react to Boehner’s resignation and the consequences for the House Republican caucus, he told the New York Times: “It means that it’s in disarray,.. Basically, he has been unseated. And that’s not good for the Republican Party.”
Boehner supporter Charlie Dent of Pennsylvania was even more explicit than that:
The dynamics are this: There are anywhere from two to four dozen members who don’t have an affirmative sense of governance. They can’t get to yes. They just can’t get to yes, and so they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead. And not only do they undermine the ability of the speaker to lead, but they undermine the entire Republican conference and also help to weaken the institution of Congress itself. That’s the reality. Now, if we have a new speaker, is there going to be an epiphany? They won’t be happy if it’s Paul Ryan or Kevin McCarthy, who will have to make accommodations with a Democratic president and the Senate constituted the way it is.
Dent predicted that “this will not be easier for the next guy”.
Boehner had been due to give a press conference to explain his decision to resign, but that was scrapped, and his office settled for a statement instead.
Boehner, unshackled from needing to worry about the security of his position, is reportedly going to throw his weight behind a clean continuing resolution to keep the federal government open in the short-term. After he leaves, of course, the federal budget isn’t something he’ll have to worry about anymore.