For Republicans, questions of who can lead them and can they govern?

26 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

After the Pope, there was nothing left for the speaker of the House..

John Boehner has had enough. WASHINGTON — Plunging Congress into deeper turmoil, House Speaker John Boehner abruptly announced his resignation Friday, shutting down a tea party drive to depose the nation’s highest-ranking Republican but opening up fresh troubles for the GOP.The “regular guy with a big job” has seemed at the center of palace intrigue forever, a man to shake things up in the old days, to be plotted against on and off ever since.

The 13-term Ohio lawmaker, second in line to the presidency, shocked his rank-and-file when he told them of his plans in an emotional closed-door meeting. There was nothing regular about John Boehner’s rise and fall and rise and fall in the House, nothing constant except that tan and the smoke-filled rooms wherever he was allowed to light up. They were there to negotiate funding the government, which the members of the Freedom Caucus said they would not support if funding for Planned Parenthood were included. “He was resolute about the continuing resolution,” said Salmon, referring to Boehner’s choice for keeping the government funded. “He usually offers a few options. It reflects the deep ideological divisions in Washington and the nation, and it emboldens the most extreme conservatives in Congress and in the crowded field of Republican candidates for president.

A firm opponent of abortion rights, he was essentially undone by disaffection from conservatives who want to push an anti-abortion struggle over Planned Parenthood financing to the point of closing the government, a step too far for him. The Republican schism will resurface quickly Monday, as Congress begins voting on whether to fund the government past Wednesday night, when money is due to run out. He was once one of the agitators — a member of the Newt Gingrich Gang of Seven who seized the Republican congressional agenda, then the reins of House power, in the 1990s.

A day after the pope’s historic speech to Congress, Boehner announced he would leave on his own terms at the end of October rather than continue to fend off efforts by perhaps 30 House Republicans intent on ousting him. Boehner’s announcement came one day after a high point of his congressional career, a historic speech by Pope Francis to Congress at the speaker’s request.

The turmoil in his party – underscored in a closed door meeting Thursday where conservatives said they’d challenge him – was a key reason Boehner accelerated his secret plan to step down. He was very matter of fact.” Another person in the meeting said that Boehner made the case for why he should keep his job, and the conversation turned to whether there would be an effort to oust him. The silver lining is that in exchange for Boehner’s head, those conservatives will go along with passing a clean spending bill next week to avoid a shutdown and keep the federal government open until mid December. The 65-year-old Boehner was never one to hold back his exasperation with recalcitrance in his own ranks as well as frustrations with what he saw as a slippery negotiating partner in President Barack Obama.

In 2008, leading House Republicans in the minority, he lectured draggy members to get off their “dead asses.” He accused Obama of moving goalposts in budget brinkmanship and trying to “annihilate” the GOP. Obama had his own frustrations with the speaker, although his most memorable line about Boehner was a tease about his tan. “He is a person of color,” Obama cracked in 2009, suggesting a common racial heritage. “Although not a color that appears in the natural world.” Both smiled over that. Significant issues such as immigration and climate change are unresolved, and even the routine business of running government has veered from crisis to crisis.

Of his resignation, he said, “Frankly, I am entirely comfortable doing it” — and he broke into a brief refrain of “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah” to demonstrate his point. Boehner summed up the lawmakers he was overseeing this way in 2011 to the Wall Street Journal columnist and Ronald Reagan speechwriter, Peggy Noonan: “We got some of the smartest people in the country who serve here, and some of the dumbest. We’ve got ’em all.” Still, he loved the institution and brought a poker-faced demeanor to it, though with heavy eyes that welled up at the slightest poignant moment.

But Boehner will leave behind a stack of other problems, including the new December funding deadline, a crucial highway bill, and the annual battle over the federal borrowing limit. And it’s not clear that the next speaker will have any easier time taming the unruly tea party lawmakers who forced Boehner out despite the largest GOP majority in 84 years, or making the deals with the White House and Senate Republicans that Boehner habitually cut to keep the gears of government running. Second oldest in a Catholic family of 12 in the northern Cincinnati suburb of Reading, Boehner swept floors in his father’s bar, played high-school football and worked his way through university. He joined the Vietnam War-era Navy, lasted only weeks because of back problems, returned to college and climbed the ranks of a plastics and packaging company to the top.

That means with the president but also with Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who conservatives say should change the filibuster rules to keep Democrats from blocking conservative priorities. There he soon became a lieutenant of the rabble-rousing Gingrich, who as mid-1990s speaker steered him to No. 4 in House leadership, with a plush office and a taste of power and the high life for a man who loves his Merlot wine and golfing. He allowed the government to be shut down for 16 days that same year over a fight over the Affordable Care Act, which the House has voted to repeal more than 50 times. At a meeting of the Values Voters Summit in Washington where religious conservatives were gathered to hear from GOP presidential candidates, attendees and some candidates alike erupted in extended applause and cheers at the news Boehner was stepping aside. “You want to know how much each of you terrify Washington?” Texas Sen.

He won election in February 2006 as House majority leader, the No. 2 spot, then became the top Republican, in a minority, after Republican losses that fall. He had enjoyed one of his career’s defining moments Thursday when Pope Francis addressed a joint meeting of Congress and met privately with Boehner, a devout Catholic. “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,” he told reporters of his surprise decision. “As simple as that.” He wouldn’t say his emotional visit with the pope influenced his decision, but he almost broke down Friday when describing the encounter. “The Pope puts his arm around me and kind of pulls me to him and says please pray for me. When conservatives didn’t see him fighting as hard for the president’s executive action on immigration or against Planned Parenthood funding, they charged that his heart wasn’t really behind those conservative priorities.

My only request is, ‘Can you come more often?'” Several conservatives made clear they would now be gunning for McConnell, and presidential candidate Bobby Jindal, the governor of Louisiana, called on the Senate leader to resign. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio. “He gets to go out on a high note, the pope.” The prospect of more challenges from conservatives weighed on him as well. “It is my view…that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution,” Boehner said. His tenure has been defined by his early struggles to reach budget agreements with Obama and his wrestling with the expectations of tea party conservatives.

Two years ago, conservatives drove him to reluctantly embrace a partial government shutdown in hopes of delaying implementation of Obama’s new health care law. Boehner was first elected to the House in 1990 and soon established a strongly conservative record, becoming part of Speaker Newt Gingrich’s leadership team when Republicans took control in 1995 for the first time in four decades. He was elected speaker after the Tea Party-fueled 2010 elections gave Republicans control of the House, but he never embraced the grassroots movement. Friday morning as Boehner let his conference know his decision, a House colleague was heard to utter an expletive—a reference one member told me to those conservative representatives who were pressuring Boehner. Boehner heard the epithet, according to the account, and said he was stepping down to help bring the conference together, not to initiate new rounds of recrimination.

On Friday aides circulated a list of accomplishments including banning earmarks, enacting money-saving reforms to Medicare this year, and leading education reforms. The fight over funding Planned Parenthood was the proximate cause for Boehner’s latest fight with conservatives, but the departure was really the result of many of the fights from the past and the fights that were likely in the future.

Boehner said McCarthy would make an “excellent speaker.” Conservatives’ incremental progress could be evident, since next in line behind McCarthy is Rep. But there was just too much plaque built up over time from these battles between the speaker and the core group of conservatives who he and his team refer to as the “Hell No Caucus.” Also, Boehner had just achieved the height of his speakership. (In my calls this morning, Boehner’s friends and allies weren’t sure whether being named speaker or hosting the Pope was the bigger honor in his life.) The theory is that by stepping down, Boehner will allow Republicans to start afresh.

Conservatives want action, but they are limited by the Senate and a Democratic president. “The crazies have taken over,” said New York Republican Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho, one of those usually on the list of possible successors. “But I am committed to supporting leaders who will keep our promise to the American people to fight for real change in Washington.” Boehner is just one congressional domino conservatives want to topple. Newt Gingrich told Fox News that Boehner faced what he had once faced as speaker. “Part of your party has demands that are not reachable, and they view your failure to reach them as a sign they need somebody new who somehow magically is going to get what they want,” said Gingrich, who stepped down from the position for similar reasons.

Trent Franks, R-Ariz. “And they will not be able to repeal those mathematics until the rule in the Senate changes.” McConnell has declined to change the 60-vote threshold rule. Heritage Action Fund, which was among the groups Boehner criticized for raising money by stirring up conservatives with false claims, danced on Boehner’s grave. Next month features the appearance of Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, before the House Benghazi Committee, created by Boehner to mollify the conservatives.

Likely are renewed efforts to derail the Export-Import Bank, toughen immigration laws and chip away at Obamacare. 2015 and 2016 may not see great success, but more seeds were planted Friday. Contributing: Franco Ordonez, Sean Cockerham and Lindsey Wise of the McClatchy Washington Bureau and Don Worthington of The Herald in Rock Hill, South Carolina

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