Boehner gives up the speaker's post in a sacrifice to rescue the House | us news

Boehner gives up the speaker’s post in a sacrifice to rescue the House

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Boehner’s resignation: Sacrifice or retreat?.

Richmond, Va. Speaker John Boehner’s Friday announcement that he will step down at the end of October appears to give the California Republican that inside track — especially since popular Ways and Means Chairman and 2012 Republican vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan says he’s not interested.John Boehner will leave Congress almost 25 years to the day from when voters in Ohio first sent him to Washington in 1990: a young rebel who helped seed one Republican takeover only to be eaten up by another a quarter-century later. While McCarthy himself had not said as of Friday night what he will do and at least one other House Republican, Dan Webster of Florida, has already tossed his hat into the race, several rank and file members listed McCarthy as the obvious successor. In that time — as a party leader, a committee chairman and finally as speaker — Boehner’s personal highs and lows often personified the conflicts inside the larger House Republican conference as it approached the task of governing.

And Boehner added his endorsement McCarthy might not be the first choice of restive party hard-liners who chronically attacked Boehner as speaker, but the 50-year-old he does enjoy the advantages of leadership incumbency, a well-funded leadership PAC that he’s used to help the elect the members who will be voting for him, and time spent building relationships throughout the Republican conference. Quick trivia question: when was the last time a speaker’s tenure did not end in sudden resignation, because the speaker lost reelection, or because his/her party lost a majority of seats in the House?

It is no secret that we had different styles and personalities, but he was always selfless, a man who put the nation, his constituents, the House of Representatives and the party before himself. Only one of McCarthy’s seven predecessors in the House’s No. 2 leadership perch — John Boehner — has gone on to take the gavel, and even Boehner’s path was not a direct one. While individual personalities and their foibles have played a part in this, the shift also coincides with a resurgence between the two major parties of competitive control of the House chamber after what had been four decades of Democratic dominance. Then there are outside groups, which raise political money by making it harder for the parties — and leaders like Boehner — to function as well. “The major feature of American politics today is that it’s dislike, indeed hatred of the other side, not policy differences, that drives our politics,” said Thomas Mann, a political scientist and long-time observer of Congress. “Boehner was not part of that but he had to run to catch up with them. A short-term continuing resolution (CR) will pass next week and potentially set the stage to pass the Highway Trust Fund bill and other priorities currently stuck in limbo.

By stepping down amid the tumult in the House conference, he has given my former colleagues in the House, fellow members of the Republican Party and the broader conservative movement a chance to demonstrate to the American people that we are prepared to govern and worthy of their trust. The Republicans’ ascendence into the House majority has been accompanied by revved-up intra-party warfare and turbulence, and deteriorating reverence for the committee system and seniority.

In short, Boehner is free to do what he has done for the last five years: enable Republicans to get out of their own way on what should be easily passed bills. In fact, since 1989, when Democrat Tom Foley ascended from majority leader to the speakership (his election to that post by colleagues came after an ethics scandal caused Speaker Jim Wright to step down), it has become rare indeed for anyone to duplicate his trajectory from being No. 2 to No. 1. Boehner has deftly moved his conference around problems that truly threatened the Republican brand and fundraising from the Doc-Fix, the Violence Against Women Act, trade promotion authority, to the debt ceiling and his handling of the shutdown in 2013. The subsequent majority leaders who did not move up are Democrat Dick Gephardt; Republicans Dick Armey, Tom Delay, and Roy Blunt; Democrat Steny Hoyer; and Republican Eric Cantor, prevented from succeeding Boehner by his ignominious defeat last year in a Virginia Republican primary for his congressional seat. None of the three speakers since Foley — other than Boehner, Newt Gingrich, Hastert, and Democrat Nancy Pelosi of California, the current minority leader –ever served as a majority leader.

The job involves scheduling legislation for floor action, setting the weekly and annual legislative agendas, gauging the sentiment of caucus or conference members, and in more recent years, being a visible messenger for the party’s positions, or even an attack dog. Those 70 years included some memorable speakers who first served as majority leaders, such as Foley, James Wright, Tip O’Neill, Carl Albert, John McCormick, Sam Rayburn, Henry Rainey, Joseph Byrns, William Bankhead, and Nicholas Longworth.

But when the so-called “Gingrich revolution” ended some 40 years of Democratic Party dominance over the House in 1995 and Foley’s own departure that year after he failed to win re-election in his Washington state district, the predictable leadership succession ended. As this “politics by other means” (as Ben Ginsberg and Martin Shefter called it) has become part of congressional life, they pose a peril for any speaker with something to hide. He brings knowledge of government benefit programs from his years on the Education and Labor Committee and helped broker a bipartisan deal in March on Medicare payments to physicians. Second, despite their incredibly high levels of voting unity, congressional Republicans have often been deeply divided, not only ideologically but also — and perhaps more so — over tactics and strategy.

And his party never reclaimed the majority before he announced he would not run again for that job in 2002, and Pelosi was chosen to succeed him as minority leader. Trying to put the best face on the situation, Boehner’s office wrapped his decision in the mantle of Pope Francis’ historic visit to the House this week. “Speaker Boehner believes that the first job of any speaker is to protect this institution and, as we saw yesterday with the Holy Father, it is the one thing that unites and inspires us all,” an aide said. But when Pope Francis hailed America as the “land of the free and the brave” and urged lawmakers to put differences aside and cooperate “generously for the common good,” did he truly mean for the speaker to give up and go home? They took to the airwaves and the Internet and pronounced that congressional Republicans could undo the president’s agenda — with him still in office, mind you — and enact into law a conservative vision for government, without compromise. Hastert vaulted from chief deputy whip after the Republicans’ first choice, Bob Livingston, has to resign before even claiming the post because of a sex scandal.

During his second term as speaker he was threatened by a coup that involved several conservative “true believers” from the class of 1994 (as well as John Boehner, ironically). Strangely, according to these voices, the only reason that was not occurring had nothing to do with the fact that the president was unlikely to repeal his own laws, or that under the Constitution, absent the assent of the president or two-thirds of both houses of Congress, you cannot make law. Though the coup failed, it left Gingrich weakened, and the threat of another internal challenge after the 1998 elections was enough to get him to quit.

But in 2005, DeLay was indicted in 2005 by a Texas grand jury on a conspiracy charge stemming from a campaign finance investigation, forcing him to cede his leadership post—temporarily, he said at the time—to Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri. As for Boehner, he was gradually worn down by a rump group of House Republicans who, while often agreeing with party leaders on policy goals, have insisted on a more aggressive, confrontational, “box canyon” approach to achieving those goals, even if they led to a government shutdown. I wonder what they would have said, if during the last two years of President Bush’s term, the Democratic congressional majority had tried something similar.

It was then that Boehner, who had been a Republican Conference chair under the Gingrich regime but lost that leadership spot in 1998, won the support of his colleagues for the majority leader’s post, narrowly outmaneuvering Blunt. And as the pressure grew this fall—fed by outside groups and presidential candidates like Donald Trump– the atmosphere became so poisonous that he saw resignation as more of a solution.

But given how competitive Congress has become, and how divided the GOP seems to be, I expect he will end up worrying more about how long he’ll get to keep the speaker’s job. By removing himself now, the argument is that Boehner saves Republicans from weeks of chaos and sets the stage for his second-in-command, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Cal.,) to take his place. Leadership now plays a much stronger and direct role in setting the agenda and negotiating legislative measures, usurping some of the chairmen’s previous domain.

After two terms of President Obama, an economy that is growing too slowly and a retrenchment of American power abroad, the conservative to-do list for the next Republican president is quite long.

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