House Speaker John Boehner said he decided to resign from Congress after he said his prayers Thursday night and reflected on Pope Francis’ visit.
“I started thinking about this last night, said my prayers … and decided today I want to do this,” he said at a press conference Friday. Boehner had planned to retire last year, but changed his mind when former Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his primary race…
Asked how he would advise his to-be-determined successor, Boehner said: “If you just do the right thing every day for the right reasons, the right thing will happen.”
With a potential embarrassment on the horizon as the big battles take hold on Capitol Hill over government funding next week and the debt limit in early November, Boehner, 65, may have simply decided now was the best time to step down…
A senior aide to Boehner insists that his decision to retire has nothing to do with his health.
“You got a member here and a member there who are off the reservation. No big deal,” the speaker said. “Listen, this is one member. I have broad support amongst my colleagues. Frankly, it isn’t even deserving of a vote.”
“I think it’s time, it’s a good thing,” Trump said. “Someone else will come in and maybe they’ll have a tougher attitude.”
Asked by The Hill if Boehner fought sufficiently for conservative principles, Trump responded: “No, he didn’t. Not enough.”
“I don’t think he’s a conservative,” the celebrity real estate tycoon said of Boehner.
“I think it’s time for him [to move on] and the party and everybody,” Trump added.
Boehner’s exit isn’t so much a sea change in party ideology as it is a generational beacon. Boehner represents an aged cliche of “Boardwalk Empire”-style GOP politicians sipping on brandy, chomping on tobacco in dark oak paneled smoke filled rooms and coming to political agreements on handshakes. Barack Obama’s Alinsky street fight tactics changed all of that, and Boehner’s backroom, down home gentleman style never adapted.
It was never so much about Boehner screwing over the base and lighting cigars with donation dollars as much as it was about not adapting to a playing field of new politics and new media that had completely shifted under his feet. When a younger, bolder GOP base more focused on grass roots and social media stood up in insurrection, he of course handled them about as well as he did Obama…
Boehner’s exit removes a maligned distraction heading into a generational presidential election for a party that is attempting to find its soul, and finding it more with the younger faces of the 2010 and 2014 midterms than the 2008 presidential election.
[O]verall his record is one that conservatives find, and should find, disappointing. To be sure, there are real limits, as Boehner and his allies always insisted, on what Republican congressmen can achieve when an implacably liberal president has a unified Democratic party behind him; but what is most dismaying is how little Republican congressmen have even tried to achieve. The House has never voted on a conservative replacement for Obamacare, or a tax reform, or even a bill to unwind Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. One of the few conservative policy victories in the last few years — the end, for now, of federal authorization of the Export-Import Bank — was accomplished over Boehner’s objections.
The Republican leadership in Congress constantly complains that conservative groups are demanding that it fight the Obama administration in ways it considers counterproductive. But it does not suggest that instead Republicans fight against the administration, or for conservative causes, in some superior way. Its alternative to losing fights consists of “regular order” and advancing bipartisan legislation that appeals to business groups. That is a recipe for demoralization among conservatives, loss of Republican popularity among swing voters, further strife within the party caucus, and a further weakening of Congress as an institution.
Under Boehner, the House helped deliver sequestration that put the brakes on explosive spending growth. He effectively ended earmarks. His fellow Republicans tried to stop a war in Libya and succeeded in averting one in Syria, though not always with the speaker’s blessing.
Yet conservatives were looking for someone more like Newt Gingrich, albeit with better long-term results. They wanted someone who could communicate conservative principles and fight for the Republican platform. They wanted someone to beat Obama, as their presidential nominees couldn’t do. They wanted someone to stop playing defense and go on offense against ObamaCare and a slew of liberal programs that offended them…
What Boehner mostly did as House speaker was rescue the more conservative members of his caucus from dire political miscalculations while offering little alternative vision of his own. That was never good enough for conservatives and became increasingly untenable as Boehner began to advance legislation with Democrats and a rump of Republicans.
[W]hen conservatives have pressed Speaker Boehner to advance their own priorities, they have faced resistance from leadership every step of the way.
After President Obama’s reelection, Speaker Boehner told ABC’s Diane Sawyer that “the election changes” the GOP’s approach to Obamacare. “It’s pretty clear that the president was reelected, Obamacare is the law of the land,” Boehner said. While he might have been previewing the Chamber of Commerce’s new strategy, he certainly wasn’t echoing the sentiment of his rank-and-file members or the party’s conservative base.
In the aftermath of the president’s unlawful executive amnesty, Speaker Boehner rightly condemned President Obama for his “legacy of lawlessness” and declared that “Republicans are left with the serious responsibility of upholding our oath of office.” Less than three months later, after giving up the fight, the Speaker adopted President Obama’s talking points about funding for the Department of Homeland Security and said that “with more active threats coming into the homeland,” Congress could not use the power of the purse to fight for the Constitution…
The challenge for the Washington establishment—in which Speaker Boehner was firmly entrenched—is how to adapt to such a radical and empowering change in the political landscape. In the long run, the last year of turmoil in the GOP will prove to have been immensely positive. You had a Speaker who decided he was going to ignore the decentralizing influence of digital communication and try to govern with an iron fist ignoring the will of his voters. And that model has proven to be a complete failure.
After taking back the House in 2010, Boehner increasingly marginalized social conservatives. After the 2012 win, he increasingly marginalized fiscal conservatives. More and more, Boehner had to rely on Democrats and moderate Republicans to get anything done in the House. In the old days, punishing members by removing them from committees would have worked. But now, thanks to outside groups like Heritage Action for America, Madison Project, Club for Growth, and even the Senate Conservatives Fund, punishing members made them martyrs and emboldened them.
With the Iran Deal and the pending debt ceiling fight, Boehner finally marginalized war hawks in Congress, thereby putting himself on the outs with every wing of the party in Congress save the moderates who are in the minority. Before the August recess, Congressman Mark Meadows filed a motion to vacate the chair, which would effectively strip Boehner of power. No one, including conservatives, thought Boehner was in trouble. But over the August recess, it became clear to members that their own Republican voters supported Meadows…
Boehner’s problem is that he held more and more of his own party in the House in contempt. In the end, it wasn’t just the conservatives who felt shut out and unable to do business with Boehner. Everyone else did to. So Boehner had to go.
After Speaker John A. Boehner’s stunning decision on Friday to step down, the question now becomes: Who can lead this unruly bunch?…
The person who replaces him will face the same situation — a fact that was not lost Friday on House Republicans who seemed to have a bit of the “now what do we do?” attitude as they absorbed the loss of Mr. Boehner.
“Whoever is in the speaker’s chair has the same mathematics,” said Representative Trent Franks, Republican of Arizona.
Probably, the way this is supposed to play out, at least from the standpoint of leadership, is that Boehner will, as his last act, fall on his sword to negotiate a clean funding bill that prevents a shutdown and provides for a debt limit increase. He will rely mainly on Democrat support. McCarthy will be allowed to pretend that he is opposed to this plan, while he counts the votes to make sure enough liberal/swing district Republicans are on board to make sure it passes. And then when this is all over, Boehner will be the appointed scapegoat and McCarthy will count on having a couple years of goodwill from the Republican voting public to try to get the caucus in order again.
Here is the thing – ignore how McCarthy votes and acts on the funding bill, as that will likely be pre-ordained as a sideshow. Watch how the caucus votes on the leadership election and how quickly they move. If McCarthy immediately consolidates support and wins on the first or second vote, it will show that House members, by and large, have learned nothing. It will show that dumping Boehner was purely a PR strategy instead of a recognition that the direction he was taking the caucus was untenable.
If McCarthy breezes into power basically uncontested, he should start from day one with just as much skepticism from conservatives both in the caucus and in the voting booth as Boehner does. McCarthy has had his hand on the tiller in just as many bad decisions as Boehner has, and has been responsible for many of the erroneous whip counts that embarrassed Boehner in the first place.
Since taking control of Congress, they haven’t voted on conservative proposals to deal with health care, taxes or higher education. They’ve telegraphed that they’re planning to wait for a presidential nominee to supply a platform. While they wait, congressional leaders including Boehner have tried to get budget bills passed on time and acted on the various priorities of business groups. That M.O. inspires neither conservatives nor voters generally.
But conservative activist groups haven’t had an agenda, either — no list of policies they want Congress to enact or presidential candidates to endorse. And this leads to an unwinnable situation for those rare occasions when Republican politicians do make proposals. Because there’s no generally accepted conservative plan for subsidizing primary education or health care, when Republicans propose something it can always be judged as inadequate when compared to some undefined alternative…
An attractive agenda that appeals to a broad range of conservatives and enough moderates to forge a majority coalition: It’s easy enough for a columnist to state that goal, much harder for an officeholder to achieve it. But it isn’t clear that Republicans generally see the absence of such an agenda as a problem. And that’s a major reason to expect that Boehner’s successor will have no happier a tenure than he’s had.
What Republicans need is a speaker who can unite members around a coherent agenda. It is extremely unlikely that GOP lawmakers will be able to achieve their larger policy goals as long as President Obama is in office. And now that the presidential race is underway, congressional Republicans will have to take a backseat to the major presidential candidates on big-picture issues like tax and health care reform. What Republicans in the House can do, however, is advance a constitutionalist agenda to defend the prerogatives of Congress and resist the expansion of the executive authority. Right now, for example, many federal agencies have independent funding streams that they can use to perform their duties even in the absence of congressional approval. This badly undermines the constitutional principle that the spending power resides in Congress, and Republicans should do what they can to put a stop to it. More broadly, Republicans should seek to reform the way Congress does business by streamlining the federal budget process and by giving committees more resources to hire expert staffers so they won’t be so dependent on lobbyists and other outside organizations to make informed decisions.
The beauty of this agenda is that it can appeal to all Republicans, whether they’re moderates or hardcore conservatives. While Republicans in the Obama era disagree about many things, they share the belief that the executive branch has grown far too powerful and that the budget process is broken and biased against meaningful spending reform. By addressing these issues now, House Republicans can set the stage for major conservative reforms in the event that a Republican president is elected in 2016.
The biggest winner from Boehner’s move is liable to be Hillary Clinton. Anything that allows her to run against an image of the Republican Party as extreme, chaotic, divisive, and unable to govern is good for her. The media will be largely sympathetic to those arguments in the coming weeks and months, creating a storyline that will to some extent crowd out coverage of the former secretary of state’s e-mail controversy and her sagging political standing…
Boehner was never given enough credit for holding together his caucus and the government in the face of powerful countervailing forces. On his watch, the government shut down briefly, but he cleverly avoided any huge calamities arising from divided government, for which his fans gave him credit. But he also failed to stop Obama from running roughshod over GOP goals on issues such as immigration, Iran, and spending, for which his intra-party critics will never forgive him.
In Washington, the new House leadership is likely to be worse at the first and no better at the second. The resulting tumult is likely to create more gridlock inside the Beltway, even as it brings some clarity to what has been a wild presidential contest.