Now we know what all those tears were about. Not 24 hours after Speaker Boehner fought tears during the entire visit of Pope Francis to the Capitol on Thursday, the 13-term congressman from Ohio announced his resignation from Congress. His last day will be Oct. 30.
In a town that had written his political obituary almost from the moment he took the gavel from then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in January 2011, Boehner’s announcement took the Capitol by surprise. Even though storm clouds had been building again recently, no one thought he would just walk away and so quickly. Although a terrific piece by The Post’s Robert Costa about an encounter with Boehner last night shows that the end was nigh.
“When you are the speaker of the house, your number one responsibility is to the institution,” Boehner said at an afternoon news conference at the Capitol. “This prolonged leadership turmoil,” he continued, would do damage to the institution. “This isn’t about me. . . . It’s about the institution.” An institution that can only be described as chaotic under his leadership.
Allegiance to the Hastert Rule, with its imperative that nothing come to the floor without the support of a majority of the majority, in the age of the tea party, meant nothing got done. Boehner’s tenure was marked by a litany of strategic miscalculations and political embarrassments that led to a slew of bills pulled from the floor due to lack of support. And when legislation was actually put to a vote, every vote was fraught with peril — for his speakership and the nation.
The debt-ceiling debacle of 2011 was the most dangerous example of Boehner’s long-running inability to ride herd over his raucous Republican caucus. The frightening game of chicken played with the full faith and credit of the United States hanging in the balance was an embarrassment for Boehner, the House and the country. His unwillingness to allow a vote on the comprehensive immigration bill that passed out of the Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support in 2013 is another example of Boehner being held hostage by the ideologues in his caucus.
“John Boehner’s a good man,” said President Obama in the Rose Garden as President Xi Jinping of China looked on. Yes, he is a good man. But a man who could not exert his will over a far-right caucus that feels it was elected to cut spending, even shut down the government, no matter its economic ramifications. The person who follows Boehner will have a helluva job ahead. And if that person is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.), the failed former House majority whip, don’t expect things to get any better.
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