John Boehner is the first Speaker of the House to willingly leave the position since Thomas O’Neill, Jr. in 1987. He announced on September 25th that he will resign as Speaker on October 30th. This marks the end of an era in Congress, as it signals the high-water mark of the Republican Party. Boehner’s resignation announces to the Tea Party that they’ve won the battle and, perhaps, even the war.
Speaker Boehner’s resignation marks the inability of moderate Republicans to manage the rightward drift of their own party. We’ve watched the Republican party drift further and further to the right since the inception of the Tea Party in 2009.
In the midterm elections of 2010, Republicans gained sixty-three seats in the House, giving them a majority. John Boehner was elected the Speaker of the House in 2011 after the 112th United States Congress was brought into session.
The Tea Party Caucus was also created in the 112th Congress, which began the woes of John Boehner’s tenure as Speaker of the House. This was only the beginning of a losing battle, as he attempted to keep his party in line and continue governing.
The reason for his resignation is the latest fight over government funding. Because of the discovery of a false video showing Planned Parenthood’s “practices,” many conservatives called for a budget that cuts federal funding to Planned Parenthood. Their open threat to shutdown the government over this meager issue pressured Boehner to side with his party’s ideology rather than do what’s best for the country.
The first sign of Boehner’s inability to corral his own party was in 2013 when the government shutdown for sixteen days over the issue of defunding Obamacare.
The final agreement to reopen the government would be the undoing of then- House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was later defeated in the primaries by a Tea Party candidate.
Boehner’s likely successor is now-House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is wellliked among hyper-conservatives because of his malleable nature. His succession will likely lead to even more gridlock in Washington with less getting done in President Obama’s final months in office.
In his last days in office, Boehner has some critical decisions to make that will determine the legacy he leaves behind. With the passage of a continuing resolution that funds the government though December 11, Congress has avoided an immediate shutdown, but without a solid budget, they will face another impending shutdown in December.
Boehner should get the House to approve a budget and raise the debt ceiling before he resigns to ensure the government can continue to operate in 2016. This would also put Tea Party Republicans in a difficult position in 2016, since the budget would come to vote weeks before Election Day.
Regardless of what he decides to do, Boehner has presided over the House during a contentious period with the House divided by Democrats, Republicans, and the Tea Party, and there is something to be said for that.