Congress

Speaker John Boehner is Resigning From Congress. What Happens Next?

This certainly isn't the headline I expected to read and write when I woke up this morning, but it's not entirely surprising.

Hardline conservatives have railed against Speaker of the House John Boehner for years and have failed to oust him multiple times, but Boehner will save them the trouble by resigning from Congress next month.

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner will resign from Congress at the end of October, ending a tumultuous five-year tenure at the helm of the House and a 25-year career in Congress.

Boehner made the surprise announcement to stunned GOP colleagues at a closed-door meeting Friday morning — less than 24 hours after he reveled in the first-ever papal speech to a joint session of Congress, something he has dreamed of for 20 years, and as the government is on the verge of another shutdown if Boehner's fractious caucus in the House can't reach agreement with the Senate to fund the government beyond Sept. 30.

Given that he is resigning, Boehner has no reason not to bring a clean continuing resolution to fund the federal government up for a vote. Republicans will balk as they always have, but Boehner can pass a clean resolution with Democratic support and then ride off into the sunset.

Congress may avert a shutdown set to begin next Wednesday night at midnight, but that doesn't mean we're out of the woods. Things actually could get worse from here.

Whoever replaces Boehner as Speaker of the House may not be willing to compromise at the last minute and pass crucial legislation with cross-party support. A government shutdown may be averted next week, but the chances that we'll face more shutdowns in the coming months have increased. The Flying Monkey Caucus will not confirm a leader who isn't willing to go the distance and push the nation off a cliff.

If we're lucky, Boehner will pass a bill to raise the debt ceiling before he leaves office. If not, holy shit.

  • fry1laurie

    Yes, Boner could do the right thing, but why start now?

  • muselet

    For five years, I’ve had a suprising amount of sympathy for John Boehner. He seems a decent-enough man, and in normal times, he would have been a perfectly adequate Speaker, not necessarily a consequential figure—his fantasy wasn’t going to play out in real life—but one who made the deals needed to keep the lights on.

    Instead, he got the gavel just as the ones Charlie Pierce called “the feral children” joined Congress and presided over gridlock and intra-GOP ankle-biting.

    The descent of the House Republican conference into madness would have happened regardless of who was Speaker; Boehner was simply the victim of unfortunate timing.

    It’s probably too much to ask for Boehner to make a grand two-finger gesture at the Flying Monkey Caucus and make deals with the Ds on his way out the door. He doesn’t have that in him.

    He probably doesn’t have this in him, either, but wouldn’t a bluntly-honest, no-holds-barred memoir of John Boehner’s time as Speaker be great fun?

    –alopecia

    • Christopher Foxx

      The descent of the House Republican conference into madness would have happened regardless of who was Speaker; Boehner was simply the victim of unfortunate timing.

      To some extent he was in the wrong place at an unfortunate time. But as the leader Boehner could have done a lot more to head off the craziness in his party. He’s been the parent who could have limited the damage but was too desperate for his kids to think of his as “their friend.”

      • muselet

        The Class of 2010, a/k/a The Rise Of The Tea Party (as Driftglass regularly reminds us, There. Is. No. Tea. Party.), was elected on a uniform platform of vandalism.

        They styled themselves permanent outsiders, the ones who grrr! hated government and who vowed to hack and slash and destroy. They had no establishment Republican support in the primaries and only grudging support in the general, so they felt even less beholden to the party or its leaders for their electoral success.

        From election night 2010 until he was handed that ridiculously-huge gavel by Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner tried to bring the feral children into the GOP fold, to address their (inchoate and often incoherent) concerns. They would have none of it. They refused to acknowledge the very existence of House leadership, let alone its authority (which is not meant as a South Park reference). The Class of 2010 preferred to take its cues from fellow Visigoth Ted Cruz.

        Could Boehner have brought the lunatics to heel? Unlikely. Could he have imposed order on chaos, or at least limited the damage being done? Also unlikely. John Boehner had no leverage over the crazies in his conference and they would have had no hesitation in ousting him—or anyone who followed him—from the big chair if he’d crossed them. Makes it hard to impose discipline.

        You can’t lead people who won’t follow.

        –alopecia

        • Christopher Foxx

          John Boehner had no leverage over the crazies in his conference and they would have had no hesitation in ousting him—or anyone who followed him—from the big chair if he’d crossed them.

          In other words, Boehner willingly surrendered to the people he knew would damage the country because his own job and ego were more important to him.

          There is no way to describe Boehner and what he’s done that doesn’t show what an incompetent, un-unpatriotic failure he was.

          • muselet

            Well I remember the “John Boehner Is Really Bad At His Job” segments on the Rachel Maddow Show. And he really isn’t/wasn’t very good at being Speaker of the House.

            However, the crazies didn’t figure they owed the leadership anything, since the leadership hadn’t helped them get elected. More than once, Boehner tried to get them to play nice, but they flatly refused. If he’d tried time-honored, hard-nosed tactics and reassigned them to offices on the sidewalk, they would have either taken pride in sitting outside in the snow or mounted a full-on rebellion.

            As I keep saying, in normal times Boehner would have been a middling-to-adequate Speaker, but these are not normal times. I’m unconvinced that a Speaker with the power and influence of Joseph Gurney Cannon and Sam Rayburn combined wouldn’t be able to control the Flying Monkey Caucus.

            So, was John Boehner incompetent? In a Peter Principle sort of way, yes. Unpatriotic? No. Just no. Failure? More or less, but mostly through no fault of his own.

            Remember, the crazies are gunning for Mitch McConnell next because they think he’s an over-accommodating squish. In that sort of environment, someone like Boehner never stood a chance.

            Tl;dr version: I’m more sympathetic to John Boehner’s plight than you.

            –alopecia

          • Christopher Foxx

            If he’d tried time-honored, hard-nosed tactics and reassigned them to offices on the sidewalk, they would have either taken pride in sitting outside in the snow or mounted a full-on rebellion.

            No, I don’t buy it. I don’t ever accept the excuse “We have to let the petulant children be in charge because if we don’t they might act badly.” It’s a pathetic abdication of responsibility when parents do it, and no less so for “leaders”.

            There are 247 Republicans in the House. And maybe, what, as many as 60 or so of those are “Tea Partiers”? That leaves Boehner with at least 75% of his caucus that isn’t infants threatening to throw a hissy fit.

            You use those time-honored, hard-nosed tactics. You marginalize them. You peel off those who just might be more reasonable and let the others start to see how much better things are for them when they, too, could get some of the nice stuff. (“Yeah, it is awfully hot here on the picket line. Why, yes, a brief break in the shade with some Lemonade would be nice. No, no I really have to get back to the picket line now. Well, maybe after one more cup.”)

            And, most of all, you lead your party back to a reasonable, responsible more moderate position and then work with the Democrats to actually get things done. That makes 370 vs the crazy 60 and, BOOM, you’ve never allowed a measly 7th of the House to exercise any kind of control or accomplish anything. No symbolic votes just so they could say they voted against ACA. No sham investigation committees. Nothing but ineffective failure which the party would make sure to make plain to the voters in the next primaries. And a couple election cycles later they’re gone.

            Tl;dr version: John Boehner was unable to do the job and knowingly handed the country over to those seeking to destroy it rather than admit it. He isn’t deserving of anyone’s sympathy.

          • muselet

            As I see it, John Boehner did what he reasonably could to rein in the loons. If he’d marginalized them, punished them, not only the Flying Monkey Caucus but every other conservative R would have jumped on Boehner from a great height, cheered on by The Base and all the wingnut-welfare outfits. Almost everyone on the Right thought the crazies could be housebroken, those who didn’t were hoping the crazies would burn the government to the ground and piss on the ashes.

            And once again I say, you can’t lead if no one will follow.

            –alopecia

          • Christopher Foxx

            but every other conservative R would have jumped on Boehner from a great height

            How is that not a blatant statement that he was utterly incapable of actually leading or in any way controlling his party?

            I maintain: There is no way to describe how Boehner did his job that doesn’t show how incompetent he was at it.

            you can’t lead if no one will follow

            That’s blaming the leader’s failure to lead on others. I’m really quite amazed at how much you’ll point to all sorts of things as the causes for Boehner’s failure rather than hold him responsible for it.

          • muselet

            The entire Republican Party has, at least since January 2009, operated in strict accordance with Cleek’s Law*. And the entire Republican Party thought the feral children would be a splendid addition to the party and that they would reliably vote the way the R leadership wanted.

            The entire Republican Party has learned otherwise and hasn’t the slightest idea what to do about it.

            The GOP deserves the blame more than any one man. The GOP got The Base good and riled up in 2008, enough so that some of The Base decided they weren’t Republicans any more, they were Patriotic Tea Party Americans! (once again I quote Driftglass: There. Is. No. Tea. Party.), which led to the Class of 2010. His own party handed Boehner a live grenade and told him to have fun with his big gavel.

            Is/was John Boehner a lousy Speaker? Out of his depth, certainly, but equally certainly not entirely responsible for the stinking mess the House Rs have left for the cleaning crew. I’m not making excuses for the man, just pointing out the reality in which he had to operate.

            Plus, whoever replaces him—Kevin McCarthy, apparently—will be orders of magnitude worse. Soon we’re all going to be nostalgic for a Speaker who at least tried to bring order to the chaos.

            *Cleek’s Law: Today’s conservatism is the opposite of what liberals want today: updated daily.

            –alopecia

          • Christopher Foxx

            The GOP deserves the blame more than any one man.

            I don’t deny that everyone in the entire party deserves blame. But, of all the folks in the party, I do blame their leader more than any other individual. He is, after all, the leader (I can’t keep emphasizing that enough).

            And that means he’s supposed to set the direction. He’s supposed to get people to move in the way he believes they should go. So either Boehner was all in favor of letting the Tea Party toddlers run the show, or he was incapable of setting the party’s direction. Either way, the biggest chunk of the blame is his.

            Again, I don’t get the variations on trying to not hold Boehner responsible for his failures or to minimize them. This variation is “OK, he deserves some blame, but never mind that because most of it really lies elsewhere”. And followed by “He’s gonna seem great compared to what’s about to come.”

            He was bad. He was ineffective. He was damaging. He failed at his job. The fact that the next person will probably be even worse doesn’t absolve Boehner of any of that. On the contrary, since Boehner’s failure is a large part of why someone like McCarthy is posed to take over as Speaker, Boehner also has some responsibility for the damage to come.

            once again I quote Driftglass: There. Is. No. Tea. Party.

            I don’t get that. Well, I do, if it’s pointing out the technicality of there being no registered Tea Party and no congressfolks with a (T) after their name. But clearly there very definitely *is* a Tea Party meaning a group of folks who identify themselves as members of such an organization. So “There’s no Tea Party” always strikes me as akin to saying “There’s no Black Caucus”.

          • muselet

            The Tea Party is and always was merely The Base, rebranded. It suited them—as it suited the GOP—to pretend they were some new, as-yet-undiscovered population of dissatisfied voters. It doesn’t help anyone’s understanding of what’s going on in politics to go along with the pretense.

            If only someone would alert the media.

            –alopecia

  • Boehner can pass a clean resolution with Democratic support and then ride off into the sunset.

    I think this is reasonably likely. Of course conservatives will pillory him endlessly and for decades they’ll think of him as the man responsible for millions of abortions, since he had defunding Planned Parenthood in his grasp and didn’t do it.