Here’s a complete transcript of Boehner’s news conference about his resignation; he entered singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.”
[This is a long one; if you want to skip to the next post, go here.]
BOEHNER: My, oh my, what a wonderful day.
(LAUGHTER) I used to sing that on my way to work in the morning.
Listen, my mission everyday is to fight for smaller, less costly, more accountable government.
And over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. We’re now on track to cut government spending by $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years. We made the first real entitlement reform in nearly two decades.
And we protected 99 percent of the American people from an increase in our taxes.
We’ve done all this with a Democrat in the White House. So I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished. But more than anything, my first job is — as speaker, is to protect the institution.
A lot of you know that — now know, that my plan was to step down at the end of last year. I decided in November of 2010 that — when I was elected speaker, that serving two terms would have been plenty.
And — but in June of last year, when it became clear that the majority leader lost his election, I didn’t frankly believe it was right for me to leave at the end of last year.
So, my goal was to leave at the end of this year. So I planned, actually, on my birthday, November 17, to announce that I was leaving at the end of the year.
But it’s become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution. So, this morning, informed my colleagues I would resign from the speakership and resign from Congress at the end of October.
Now, as you’ve often heard me say, this isn’t about me. It’s about the people, it’s about the institution.
Just yesterday we witnessed the awesome sight of Pope Francis addressing the greatest legislative body in the world. And I hope we will all heed his call to live by the golden rule. But last night, I started to think about this.
BOEHNER: And this morning, I woke up and I said my prayers, as I always do, and I decided, you know, today’s the day I’m going to do this.
As simple as that.
That’s the code I always lived by, if you do the right things for the right reasons, the right things will happen. And I know good things lie ahead for this House and this country, and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, especially proud of my team.
You know, I’ve been here — my 25th year here, and I’ve succeeded, in large part, because I put a staff together and a team together, many of which have been with me for a long time. And without a great staff you can’t be a great member, and you certainly can’t be a great speaker.
I’m going to thank my family for putting up with this all these years. My poor girls, who are now 37 and 35. Their first campaign photo was in July of 1981, and so, they’ve had to endure all this.
It’s one thing for me to have to endure it. I’ve got thick skin. But, you know, the girls and my wife, they had to put up with a lot over the years.
Let me express my gratitude to my constituents, who’ve sent me here 13 times over the last 25 years. You can’t get here without getting votes. But — I say this often. People ask me, what’s the greatest thing about being speaker, or about being an elected official? And I said, well, it’s the people you get to meet.
You know, I have met tens of thousands of people in my own congressional district that I would have not met, other than the fact I decided to ran for Congress.
Over the years, as I traveled on behalf of my colleagues and the party, I’ve met tens of thousands of additional people all over the country. And you meet rich people, you meet poor people, you meet interesting people. Probably a few boring ones along the way.
But I can tell you that 99.9 percent of the people I meet on the road, anywhere, could not be — could not be nicer than they’ve been. It’s been — really, it’s been wonderful.
It’s been an honor to serve in this institution. And with that — all right, Junior, go ahead. QUESTION: Speaker Boehner, you were noticeably overcome with emotion yesterday.
BOEHNER: Really? What a surprise.
QUESTION: I’m curious, did you make this decision last night — if the grace of Pope Francis led you to this decision?
BOEHNER: No, no. Yesterday was wonderful day. It really was. Was I emotional yesterday? I think I was.
I was really emotional in a moment that really no one saw. As the pope and I were getting ready to exit the building, we found ourselves alone. And the pope grabbed my left arm, and said some very kind words to me about my commitment to kids and education.
And the pope puts his arm around me, and kind of pulls me to him and says, “Please pray for me.” Well, who am I to pray for the pope? But I did.
QUESTION: If it wasn’t the pope, then what was it?
BOEHNER: It’s — listen, it was never about the vote, all right? There was never any doubt about whether I could survive the vote.
But I don’t want my members to have to go through this. I certainly don’t want the institution to go through this. And so — especially when, you know, I knew I was — I was thinking about walking out the door anyway.
So, it’s the right time to do it, and frankly, I am entirely comfortable doing it.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, I’ve heard you say before that a leader who doesn’t have anybody following him is just a guy taking a walk.
BOEHNER: That’s right. I have got plenty of people — I’ve got plenty of people following me.
But this turmoil that’s been churning now for a couple months is not good for the members and it’s not good for the institution. And if I wasn’t planning on leaving here soon, I can tell you I would not have done this.
QUESTION: If I may?
QUESTION: Just — there are people who are on the right in your caucus, and even outside of this institution, who have been wanting you to step down for some time, who feel they have a victory today.
QUESTION: Do you feel that you were pushed out?
BOEHNER: No. The members — I’m glad I made this announcement at the conference with all my Republican colleagues, because it was a very good moment to help kind of rebuild the team.
Listen, I feel good about what I’ve done. I know that I — every day try to do the right things for the right reasons, and try to do the right thing for the country.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, how can this not be a moment for turmoil? You said you thought about leaving two years ago after (inaudible), but at the time, you said this would have put the House in turmoil.
You have to keep the government open in a couple of days, debt ceiling. There’s going to be…
BOEHNER: Well, I’m…
BOEHNER: I’m going to be here for another five weeks. And I’m not going to leave, I’m not going to sit around here and do nothing for the next 30 days. There’s a lot of work that needs to be done. I plan on getting it as much of it done as I can before I exit.
QUESTION: And as a result, though, (inaudible) does it make it easier in some ways to make some tougher decisions, maybe relying on Democrats to keep the government open next week or something (ph)?
BOEHNER: No. I’m going to make the same decisions I would have made regardless of this.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, you’ve made no secret of your frustration that some members of your far right (inaudible) and some outside groups used words like, “knuckle heads” and some other words we probably can’t use on television…
QUESTION: Probably. Have you just have enough? And how will anything be different for the…
BOEHNER: No, no. I — let me tell you. I would not describe it as having had enough. And that’s not it at all.
When you are the speaker of the House, your No. 1 responsibility is to the institution. And having a vote like this in the institution, I don’t think is very healthy.
And so, I’ve done everything I can over my term as speaker to strengthen the institution. And frankly, my move today is another step in that effort to strengthen the institution.
QUESTION: So, won’t the next speaker face the same thing?
BOEHNER: Hopefully not.
QUESTION: That’s my question, Mr. Speaker. How will Washington be different because you leave this institution?
What should people watching this expect the House and Congress to do going forward, if you’re not here?
BOEHNER: Well, if we — if the Congress stays focused on the American people’s priorities, there will be no problem at all.
And while we have differences between Democrats and Republicans, the goal here, as one of the leaders, is to find the common ground.
Listen, I talked to President Bush and President Obama this morning. I’ve talked to all my legislative leaders who I have a very good relationship with all of them. Because at the end of the day, the leaders will have to be able to work with each other, trust each other to find the common ground and get things done.
And so, if the Congress stays focused on what’s important to the American people, they’ll get along just fine.
QUESTION: Can you tell us how your conference reacted to the news?
BOEHNER: I would say they were shocked.
QUESTION: Can you elaborate a little bit more on that? Maybe how the leadership itself reacted?
BOEHNER: Yeah, I told Mr. McCarthy, about two minutes before I spoke, what I was going to do. I had to tell him five times, because he didn’t believe me.
I said, you better believe me.
QUESTION: Should McCarthy be the next speaker?
BOEHNER: Listen, I’m not going to be here to vote on the next speaker, but that’s up to the members. But having said that, I think that Kevin McCarthy would make an excellent speaker.
QUESTION: Who is the first person you told, and what did they say?
BOEHNER: Well, I told my wife.
QUESTION: What did she say?
BOEHNER: She said, good.
I told my chief of — my chief of staff and I talked late yesterday. I had told him I was thinking today might be the day. And I told him I’d sleep on it.
So, before I went to sleep last night, I told my wife. I said, “You know, I might just make an announcement tomorrow.” What do you mean? What kind of announcement?
Well, I might tell them it’s time to go. So, this morning, I woke up and walked up to Starbucks as usual and got my coffee, and came back and read. And walked up to Pete’s Diner and saw everybody at Pete’s, and got home and thought, “Yep, I think today’s the day.”
So, my senior staff was having a meeting at 8:45, and kind of walked in before I opened the House and told them, “This is the day.”
It’s going to happen someday. Why not today?
QUESTION: Do you know when the next election might be held?
QUESTION: What advice will you give Kevin McCarthy, based on your five years, what advice do you give him to avoid the same pitfalls that you’ve come across?
BOEHNER: Well, I’ll tell Kevin, if he’s the next speaker, that his number one responsibility is to protect the institution. Nobody else around here has an obligation like that.
Secondly, I’d tell him the same thing I’ve just told you. You just do the right thing every day for the right reasons, the right things will happen.
You all know me. My colleagues know me. I’m always straight with them. You know, they may not like the answer they get but they’ll get an honest answer every single time they come to my office. It’s just an easier way for me to do my job.
QUESTION: You originally planned to announce this on your birthday? And if it wasn’t the pope what factors sort of weighed in on your decision to do this now?
BOEHNER: Just all this stuff I read about in the paper and — I really don’t want the institution to hurt and I don’t want my colleagues hurt. I don’t want to put my colleagues through all this. For what? So, yes?
QUESTION: What are you going to miss? What will you miss?
BOEHNER: Pardon me?
QUESTION: What will you miss?
BOEHNER: What will I miss? Of course all of you.
I don’t know what I’m going to miss because I haven’t missed it yet. But I’ll certainly miss the camaraderie of the House.
Let me tell you another story that was really kind of interesting. Maxine Waters and I, Democrat from Southern California, came here 25 years ago in the same class. Now, you know, there’s nothing about my politics and Maxine Waters’ politics that is even anywhere close, but yesterday about 5:30 she called my office. I got a note that she called so I called her back.
And she said, “You know, I watched you for 25 years here. We came here together and watched your career. And I watched you today.” And she said, “I just want to tell you something. I’m really proud of you.” You know, listen, I’ve got the best relationships on both sides of the aisle because I treat people fairly and treat them honestly. But I’m going to miss, certainly miss my colleagues.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.
To go back to this theme of trying to take turmoil out of the House and stabilizing the institution, how do you think that it could become more stable? Several Republicans I talked to yesterday from your conference said they don’t think a new speaker will mean any new outcome especially with an untested (inaudible) of untested leadership, how could it become more stable?
BOEHNER: As I mentioned earlier, the fact I did this with my colleagues this morning, then we proceeded to have an hour and a half conversation, I thought was a unifying moment. Between that and the pope’s call for living by the golden rule yesterday, hope springs eternal.
QUESTION: Can you talk about what you think your legacy is as you’re leaving? What are your most important accomplishments, and what are you going to do on November 1st? Are you moving to Florida?
BOEHNER: I was never in the legacy business. You all heard me say it, I’m a regular guy with a big job. And I never thought I’d be in Congress much less I’d ever be speaker. But people know me as being fair, being honest, being straightforward and trying to do the right thing every day on behalf of the country. I don’t need any more on that.
QUESTION: Mr. Speaker, you seemed very relieved.
BOEHNER: Zippidy do-da, zippidy day.
QUESTION: I mean by speaking to — singing zippidy do-da, what are your plans next and also have you talked to — have you spoken to…
BOEHNER: You know when you make a decision this morning, you haven’t had — really haven’t had anytime to think about what I’m going to do in the future. I have no idea, but I do know this. I’m doing this today for the right reasons, and you know what? The right things will happen as a result.