There was more to the tears than we thought.
Speaker John Bohner informed the Republican caucus Friday morning that he is retiring from Congress at the end of October. Boehner has been under enormous pressure from conservatives who are unhappy with his leadership and were planning to possibly take him out through a coup d’etat.
Confronting Boehner next week is the possibility of a government shutdown over funding for Planned Parenthood. The Speaker’s decision not to resign immediately suggests that one of his last acts may be to shut down the effort.
Talk on Capitol Hill immediately began to focus on House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., as a likely replacement for Boehner. However, many conservatives fear he will carry much of the same moderate baggage as the current Speaker.
In an early afternoon press conference, Boehner didn’t exactly endorse a replacement – saying he wouldn’t be voting in the contest – but remarked that McCarthy would “make an excellent Speaker.”
No doubt, one of the reasons Boehner is hanging on for another month is to influence the succession.
Boehner had seemed particularly emotional during a visit by the Pope to Congress Thursday. It appears he had other things on his mind in addition to the enormity of the occasion.
While he had been thinking about it for some time, Boehner said during his press conference he had decided with finality only Friday morning that “today’s the day” he was going to resign.
“My senior staff was having a meeting at 8:45, and I kind of walked in before I opened the House and told ’em, ‘This is the day,'” he said.
During he press conference, Boehner described his exit as a selfless act designed to protect the House from the turmoil of the challenges by conservatives to his Speakership.
But it is Boehner’s care for the House – and the institutions of governance – that are exactly what has landed him in hot water on the right.
Some conservatives welcomed his announcement, according to the Associated Press.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas said “it’s time for new leadership,” and Rep. Tom Massie of Kentucky said the speaker “subverted our Republic.”
“I think it was inevitable,” Massie said. “This is a condition of his own making right here.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi termed the resignation “seismic.”
The reaction among conservatives was electric at the Values Voter Summit in Washington when Sen. Marco Rubio, who was speaking to the conference, announced that Boehner was leaving.
The crowd responded with loud sustained applause – cheering which went on much longer than when Rubio later said the the country needs a new president.
“It’s a good thing,” said Donald Trump on the sidelines of the summit, according to Politico. “It’s time. I think it’s time for him, it’s probably time for the party, it’s time for everybody.”
Boehner, who was first elected to the House in 1990, became Speaker in January 2011.