This story was originally published at 9:36 a.m.
House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), faced with a constant conservative rebellion, told Republicans Friday morning that he will resign at the end of October, according to aides and lawmakers in a closed-door meeting.
The resignation will end a nearly five-year reign as speaker, allowing House Republicans to approve a short-term government funding bill that will avert a shutdown of federal agencies. Boehner’s hold on the speaker’s gavel had grown increasingly unsteady amid threats from more than 30 Republicans that they would force a no-confidence vote in his speaker’s position, which would have forced him to rely on Democratic votes in order to remain in charge. It’s unclear whether Boehner is just resigning the speakership next month or also abandoning his House seat.
The shocking move means there’s unlikely to be a government shutdown next week. Following Boehner’s announcement, House Republicans said there was agreement to pass a clean spending bill to avert a government shutdown. Several members of the Freedom Caucus, the conservative group which led the revolt against Boehner’s leadership, said they will now support the spending bill without demands to defund Planned Parenthood attached to it.
“The commitment has been made that there will be no shutdown,” said Rep. John Fleming (R-La.).
The House intends to vote next week on a clean spending bill and then move on to budget reconciliation — where, Republicans said, both repealing the Affordable Care Act and stripping Planned Parenthood of funding will be considered.
Reconciliation bills are considered under special rules that require only a simple majority to pass and they cannot be filibustered in the Senate.
His likely successor is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the No. 2 GOP leader who has been in office less than 10 years. McCarthy has widespread support in the Republican Conference, but many believe he lacks the political and tactical gravitas to be a force in the House. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said Friday he didn’t want the job.
“This was an act of pure selflessness. John’s decades of service have helped move our country forward, and I deeply value his friendship,” Ryan said in a statement. “We will miss John, and I am confident our conference will elect leaders who are capable of meeting the challenges our nation faces.”
At the meeting, Boehner’s surprise announcement was met first with stunned silence, several members said. His speech was described as a graceful, thoughtful announcement that received three separate standing ovations.
“It was a very quiet reaction,” said Rep. Reid Ribble (R-Wis.) “There were people shedding tears in there, and there was clearly a lot of respect for the speaker and the dignity in which he conducted his affairs.”
Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) said Boehner made his announcement by talking about it as part of a “healing process,” closing by praying the Prayer of St. Francis, the papal namesake.
“His crowning accomplishment as speaker happened yesterday, and it was obviously a reflective time,” said Kramer, who called the announcement a “kick in the stomach.”
Other establishment and moderate Republicans sounded similar notes. “I really don’t like the circumstances,” said Rep. Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), adding that he doubted a new leader would be able to unite the party’s factions.
Boehner, who capped his career with Thursday’s address by Pope Francis, met with a handful of the most conservative Republicans after the papal address to lay out his plan to fund the government. But those rebels continued to agitate and threaten to force a vote at sometime in the near future to vacate his speakership.
A believer in the institution, Boehner decided to walk away on his own terms rather than relying on Democratic support or becoming the first speaker to lose the gavel midterm.
Boehner’s departure is rooted in deep conservative discontent with the way he has handle his majority — in particular, what they have seen as an unwillingness to stand up to President Obama.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), who in July filed a motion to oust Boehner that accelerated talk of his demise, said little as he left the meeting room shortly after 10:30.
Boehner, he said, served with “class and humility.”
About Obama, Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) complained: “He’s run circles around us since John Boehner was speaker of the House. I think it’s a victory for the American people.”
Huelskamp said it was “clear that he did not have the votes to remain as speaker unless Nancy Pelosi helped him out, which is obviously a very vulnerable position.”
“Obviously the pope had a big impact on him, said Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.) “That’s about the most selfless act I’ve sever seen, willing to step down to save this country and save this nation.”
Nugent, who did not support Boehner in the January speaker election, said the room was uniformly shocked — including McCarthy, who told the conference immediately afterward that he had only a moment’s notice of Boehner’s decision.
The resignation sets up a bruising leadership race that will represent a long-delayed open clash between conservative and establishment Republicans.
“We don’t simply want to move the deck chairs around,” said Fleming.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), who regularly allied with House conservatives to force fights that stymied Boehner, learned of the news at the end of a press conference on religious liberty. After saying that leadership decisions were up to the party in the House, he launched into a criticism of Boehner’s tenure while never mentioning the retiring speaker’s name.
“I have long called on Republican leadership to do something unusual, which is lead,” said Cruz. “Go actually stand up and honor the commitments that we made to the American people.”
Asked if he felt that Mitch McConnell should also resign, he demurred, then insisted he was trying to help them answer the concerns of actual voters. “I would love to sing their praises as leaders of the conservative movement.”
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), also running for president, mentioned Boehner’s resignation at Friday’s Values Voter Summit, to huge applause.
“Just a few minutes ago, Speaker Boehner announced that he will be resigning,” Rubio said as the room erupted in applause.
Rubio called on conservatives to “turn the page” and “allow a new generation of leadership in this country.”
“And that extends to the White House and the presidency as well,” he added.
“John Boehner dedicated his life to public service. Bringing the Holy Father to Congress was a fitting cap to a great career,” Jeb Bush tweeted.
National Republican Congressional Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.) said he was not at all aware of Boehner’s plans and said it’s time for the party to rally around McCarthy. He said Boehner has given his all to the party and had been a good leader.
“I don’t know what he and the Pope talked about yesterday,” Walden said. “If this was a message from God, I wish he’d send a different message”
Boehner, 65, was first elected to Congress to his southwest Ohio distinct in 1990 and began a roller coaster ride that brought him into the leadership fold early, only to be expelled in a rank-and-file rebellion, and then begin a long and steady rise back into leadership. That culminated with the historic 63-seat gain that propelled Republicans into the majority and handed Boehner the speaker’s gavel.
Almost immediately several dozen new Republicans, claiming the tea party mantle, began clashing with Boehner and opposing his moves. Deep into year four of his tenure, Boehner privately decided to step down but his likely successor — then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) — lost a stunning upset in his GOP primary, according to aides.
Without a senior Republican to take the gavel, Boehner stayed on in the hopes of steadying the ship and possibly helping elect a Republican president. That path became untenable this month as the conservative rebels plotted to force votes against Boehner, which would have meant that his Republicans would have to keep taking votes putting them in a political bind with conservative voters back home.
Dave Weigel, Kelsey Snell and Jose DelReal and Ed O’Keefe contributed to this report.
Source: Washington Post