Teary eyed and very emotional, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced his resignation at a House Republican Conference on Friday, Sept. 25. The speaker stated that he would stay until the end of October before he officially leaves office. Though this sudden decision came as a shock to many, it was clear that it was about time that Boehner left his position. According to NBC News, Boehner had always planned on resigning his seat at the end of the year.
The 65 year-old Republican from Ohio has always faced obstacles during his time as Speaker, but the problems he faced only seemed to grow and grow. He was the leader of the Republican opposition to many of Obama’s policies, such as the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the Affordable Care Act, and withdrawing troops from Iraq. Boehner continually questioned Obama’s presidential leadership in foreign affairs, the national debt, and immigration issues. The tension between the speaker and the president reached its peak in the summer of 2014 when Boehner announced that he planned to sue Obama for abuse of power. It was a foolish move, but Boehner went ahead with the lawsuit anyways.
It seems that Boehner became very tired of the fight, against Obama and the Democrats but especially with his own party. He was constantly put under pressure by the Republican extremists, and his failure to appease intense conservatives resulted in them trying to remove Boehner from his position. He was threatened by those that wanted to recall him as Speaker of the House. He chose to make what I see as a rather smart decision, considering the situation he was in. Boehner knew it was his time to step down and leave on his own terms, rather than to face potential humiliation by his own party. He even told reporters after his official announcement that “it has become clear to me that the prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution. This isn’t about me. It’s about the people, it’s about the institution.”
As expected, there was quite a split reaction among politicians. President Obama reflected quite positively on Boehner’s time as the speaker, expressing that Boehner is “a patriot who cares deeply about the House.” The president also acknowledged their many differences and past disputes but stayed supportive with his comments and praise. Former president George W. Bush commented that Boehner has done a lot to build up the Republican party in the recent years. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell also added that Boehner transformed a “broken and dispirited Republican minority into the largest Republican majority since the 1920’s.” According to McConnell, “that’s a legacy few can match.”
However, many others are more critical of Boehner’s failures and time spent in office. Conservative Congressman and staunch opponent to Planned Parenthood Mick Mulvaney found Boehner to have “allowed Congress to become irrelevant.” Congressman Thomas Massie, a Republican from Kentucky, also stated the Boehner’s resignation was “good news for the country.” Although I find that these remarks may be quite harsh, a new speaker might just be what Congress needs.
Boehner’s choice, although commendable, highlights the failure within the Republican party. They are unable to support each other, and the tension within the party was obviously too much for the frustrated speaker to handle. As Speaker of the House, Boehner failed to regain support from the rest of his party. Unfortunately, that is what he will be remembered and criticized for. All we can do now is to look to his future replacement to see whether or not the Republican party can be put back together again.
Photo courtesy of CNN