In the same week he brought Pope Francis to speak before U.S. Congress, John Boehner announced his resignation as House Speaker. Boehner has occupied the position since 2011, serving as a persistent adversary to President Barack Obama and the Democratic Party.
His resignation might have been a result of pressure from members of the GOP. NPR credits the possibility of another government shutdown and “renewed conflict with more conservative members of his party” as the reason for his departure.
Boehner’s own reason for the surprising decision is more straightforward. “I thought: today is the day I’m going to do this … as simple as that,” he said, according to NPR.
In his official statement, Boehner claimed he had only planned to serve as Speaker of the House until last year. He then stayed in the position “to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House.
“It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on Oct. 30.”
The logical question that follows any resignation is who will be the replacement. At least within the speculative political media, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is the presumed front-runner for the speakership.
According to Time, Boehner has already said, “Kevin would make an excellent Speaker.” It seems likely that McCarthy — a self-made man with conservative values despite growing up in a Democratic-leaning California family — will be an easy choice as Boehner’s replacement.
There’s also speculation that the conservative Tea Party wing of the GOP could make a run for the spot. Especially in such an important election year, the Republican Party is unstable. Many of the more active young Congress members will not outright support the party’s establishment.
A crowd erupted in applause on Sept. 25 when Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida informed them of Boehner's resignation. That shows that people are yearning for a different type of leadership in Washington, D.C. The Tea Party has only grown stronger and more influential in government, and Boehner’s departure could offer another opportunity for the takeover to continue. Tea Party favorite Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has already said he’s not interested in the position.
Obama, despite his years of conflict with Congress and the Speaker, referred to Boehner as a “good man” and a “patriot” after hearing news of his resignation. Although Boehner represented the Republican opposition to Obama’s policies, it is true that both sides historically came to at least some version of a compromise.
Boehner still represents the Republican establishment, not the aforementioned Tea Party insurgency that opposes everything Obama says or does.
Obama only has another year left in office, but the next Speaker could bring Obama even more challenges and antagonism. The 2016 election will be more significant than many may anticipate. America’s government is shifting, possibly more towards the right, and it will be interesting to see how it all plays out.