John Boehner Will Resign From Congress
John Boehner Will Resign From Congress
Speaker John A. Boehner, under intense pressure from conservatives in his party, will resign one of the most powerful positions in government and give up his House seat at the end of October, throwing Congress into chaos as it tries to avert a government shutdown.
Mr. Boehner, who was first elected to Congress in 1990, made the announcement in an emotional meeting with his fellow Republicans on Friday morning.
The Ohio representative struggled from almost the moment he took the speaker’s gavel in 2011 to manage the challenges of divided government and to hold together his fractious and increasingly conservative Republican members.
It will be up to the majority of the members of the House now to choose a new leader, and the leading candidate is Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the majority leader, who is widely viewed more favorably by the more conservative members. The preferred candidate among many Republicans, Representative Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, has said he does not want the job.
“John Boehner has been a great leader of the Republican Party and the House of Representatives,” Mr. Ryan said Friday in a prepared statement. “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. I wish John and his family well as he begins the next phase of his life.”
Representative Charlie Dent, Republican of Pennsylvania, said: “The next speaker is going to have a very tough job. The fundamental dynamics don’t change.”
Mr. Dent said there was “a lot of sadness in the room” when Mr. Boehner made his announcement to colleagues. He blamed the hard-right members, who he said were unwilling to govern. “They can’t get to yes,” Mr. Dent said.
Mr. Boehner’s surprise announcement came just a day after Pope Francis visited the Capitol, the fulfillment of a 20-year dream for Mr. Boehner of having a pontiff address Congress. He had a private audience with Francis before the pope’s address to a joint meeting of Congress.
For decades, Mr. Boehner had legislated as a stalwart Republican institutionalist. He became speaker after a Tea Party wave in the 2010 election swept Republicans into the majority of the House on a call for dramatically curbing federal spending and the role of government.
It was an agenda Mr. Boehner supported, but he quickly found himself hamstrung by the new members of Congress who were undaunted by the fact that Democrats controlled much of Washington and that their ability to fulfill their goals would have its limits.
That conflict resulted in a 16-day government shutdown in October 2013, the brink of default on the nation’s debt service and the undoing of former Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the House majority leader. Mr. Cantor oversaw the movement of the right to empower Republicans, but he was ultimately defeated in a primary in 2014 by an unknown challenger whose candidacy was fueled by Tea Party energy.
A similar dynamic is shaping the Republican presidential primary process, with both Donald J. Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas openly critical of congressional leaders.
On Friday, even as Republican members of Congress reeled from the news, the architects of the right-leaning movement cheered.
“Americans deserve a Congress that fights for opportunity for all and favoritism to none,” said Michael A. Needham, the chief executive of Heritage Action, a policy arm of the conservative Heritage Foundation. “Too often, Speaker Boehner has stood in the way. Today’s announcement is a sign that the voice of the American people is breaking through in Washington. Now is the time for a principled, conservative leader to emerge. Heritage Action will continue fighting for conservative policy solutions, and we look forward to working with the new leadership team.”
Most recently, Mr. Boehner, a warrior in the anti-abortion movement for 30 years, was under pressure to try to cripple Planned Parenthood as part of a deal to keep the government open.
David M. Herszenhorn contributed reporting.