On Friday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) told GOP legislators he will resign in October. Boehner’s decision was likely prompted by at least 30 House Republicans who had threatened a no-confidence vote, which would leave Boehner in the uncomfortable position of needing Democratic votes to remain in his position.
Boehner’s popularity had ebbed to historic lows; an August Gallup poll revealed 54 percent of Americans disliked him, with only 23 percent having a favorable impression. Even at the height of his popularity, in 2011, just after the GOP tsunami in the 2010 elections, Boehner was elected speaker, but still only garnered a 42 percent favorability rating. By April, his ratings dipped to 34 percent. The August Gallup poll found that a plurality of GOP voters disapproved of Boehner, 42 percent had an unfavorable impression while 37 percent liked him.
A late 2013 Pew Research survey showed Boehner’s popularity plunging among all Republicans, Tea Party or not. The poll showed the unfavorable views of Boehner climbed seven points with Tea Party Republicans between July and October, and it climbed eight points among non-Tea Party Republicans. The last Speaker of the House to receive such high disapproval marks was Tip O’Neill.
Boehner released a statement Friday morning reading:
Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. I am proud of what we have accomplished. The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love. 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.
Members of the Freedom Caucus, which wanted to oust Boehner, said they will now support a short-term government funding bill that will prevent a government shutdown, even though it will not defund Planned Parenthood. Rep. Tom McClintock resigned from the Freedom Caucus when the caucus threatened a government shutdown, asserting, “this tactic promises only to shield Senate Democrats from their responsibility for a government shutdown and to alienate the public from the pro-life cause at precisely the time when undercover videos of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices are turning public opinion in our favor.”
The House wants to pass a clean spending bill, then attempt repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood during budget reconciliation, where they would only need a majority to pass and would avoid filibustering in the Senate.
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) will likely succeed Boehner; Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) said Friday he wasn’t interested, lauding Boehner: “This was an act of pure selflessness. John’s decades of service have helped move our country forward, and I deeply value his friendship. We will miss John, and I am confident our conference will elect leaders who are capable of meeting the challenges our nation faces.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell echoed:
I have had a relationship with John Boehner for a long time… I have not always agreed and I wasn’t always happy with what John told me, but he never, ever misled me. He never ever told me something that wasn’t true and I accepted that. I got where I understood John Boehner very, very well. His word was always good.
Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said on the Senate floor that he would miss Boehner, saying lovingly:
I looked out for him in ways that I could, he looked out for me in ways that he could. I will always consider John Boehner my friend… I will continue to work with him as I have in the past to try to do what I think is right for the country as I’m confident he will, and hopefully we’ll continue someplace there in the middle to get things done… It is a gross understatement to say I will miss him.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called Boehner’s resignation “seismic” and could not resist discussing the possible shutdown, adding, “With all due respect for the speaker and his announcement, we still have to stop this action in shutting down the government… They’ve seen a Speaker step down. Public awareness is the strongest opportunity we have for keeping government open.” She finished with a flourish, stating loftily that Republicans are “a political party at war with its own government.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who started the ball rolling when he filed a motion to oust Boehner in July, only said that Boehner served with “class and humility.”
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) was more blunt, asserting of Barack Obama, “He’s run circles around us since John Boehner was speaker of the House. I think it’s a victory for the American people.” He added that Boehner “did not have the votes to remain as speaker unless Nancy Pelosi helped him out, which is obviously a very vulnerable position.”
Rep. Richard Nugent (R-FL) said the members of the GOP who attended the meeting with Boehner were unanimously shocked. He pontificated, “That’s about the most selfless act I’ve sever seen, willing to step down to save this country and save this nation. “
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), who has battled establishment Republicans for quite a while, offered, “I have long called on Republican leadership to do something unusual, which is lead. Go actually stand up and honor the commitments that we made to the American people.”
When Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), alerted his audience at Friday’s Values Voter Summit to Boehner’s resignation, the audience responded with huge applause. He said conservatives should “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,”
Jeb Bush tweeted, “John Boehner dedicated his life to public service. Bringing the Holy Father to Congress was a fitting cap to a great career.”
Boehner, 65, first went to Congress in 1990.