Retirement watch: Boehner buys condo in Florida

A tantalizing scoop from Jonathan Strong. There’s no material more crowd-pleasing on a righty blog than a post about a big-name establishment Republican possibly retiring. And in the hierarchy of establishment Republicans whom conservatives would like to see go (and who might actually be considering it), there’s only one name bigger than Boehner’s.

The day McCain announces he’s not running again is going to be a de facto national holiday for tea partiers, isn’t it?

“This area of Florida has been the Boehners’ family vacation spot for many years, and rather than continue to put money into vacation rentals year after year, they decided to buy a condo. Their home is in West Chester, Ohio, and will continue to be,” Michael Steel, Boehner’s spokesman said…

Boehner shared the happy news he had just closed on a place to colleagues at the National Republican Congressional Committee’s recent winter meeting in Sarasota, prompting gossip among GOP lawmakers about what it might mean for his future.

Buying a new place is a more significant act for the relatively modest Boehner than other top congressional leaders.

More significant, yes, but if he has reason to think he’ll be earning big money soon as a lobbyist, a new condo is no sweat.

Rumors that he’s quitting after this session have been kicking around since last year, and Strong makes a good point in noting that Boehner’s been more aggressive in challenging the right wing of his caucus lately. That’s not how a man who’s worried about winning the next House election for Speaker would normally behave. Two questions, though. First, if he’s planning to head off into the sunset, why did he seem to step away from amnesty lately? Could be that he’s simply biding his time and will return to it soon at an opportune moment, possibly after Obama makes a few concessions on other business that Boehner’s interested in, but the centrists in the caucus are going to need bold leadership to get them to cross the aisle on this so soon before the midterms. Boehner hasn’t seemed bold lately. If he’s keen to pass major legislation before he retires (as has often been said about him vis-a-vis a “grand bargain” on deficit reduction), amnesty’s probably his last shot. No sense wasting time if he’s preparing to step down.

Second, if he is planning to retire, why not announce it soon? There are rumors that Pelosi might retire too given that a few of her chief deputies, Henry Waxman foremost among them, are finally quitting after decades in the House. But Pelosi has an obvious interest in keeping quiet about it: If she quits before the midterms, it’ll be taken as a sign that leadership has given up on retaking the majority in the fall, which will bruise Democratic morale. And Pelosi’s no ordinary leader, either; she was the Speaker who got ObamaCare through the House. If she quits with the GOP poised to make further gains in Congress because of the O-Care implementation debacle, it’ll feel like she’s conceding that her big “achievement” has been a total political loser. None of that is true for Boehner. If anything, him quitting would boost morale among grassroots conservatives, who’d sense an opportunity to steer the caucus further to the right by electing a new slate of tea partiers this fall. And GOP centrists could console themselves with the fact that none of Boehner’s potential successors — Cantor, McCarthy, Ryan — are hardline tea partiers themselves. In fact, the only reason I can think of why Boehner would keep this hush-hush is because it might ignite the conservative base. If he wants to bequeath a centrist-ish GOP caucus to the next Speaker, lying low until the lame-duck session is probably his best move.