The Speaker of the House of Representatives, John Boehner (R-Ohio), suddenly resigned from his post this morning after attempting to sway a group of about 30 Republican lawmakers not to push for a government shutdown. Apparently unsuccessful, Boehner is preempting a mutiny by conservatives within the party who have already called for him to step down.
The Speaker of the House is not only the highest-ranking position within the U.S. House of Representatives, but the holder of the post is also the third in line (after the vice president) to ascend to the White House in the event that the president is incapable of doing so.
Much of the speculation surrounding Boehner’s abrupt departure centers on the fight between centrist and conservatives Republicans, both in the House of Representatives and the Senate, over the issue of defunding Planned Parenthood. Although the vast majority of the GOP is supportive of the idea, the two major factions within the party can’t agree on the tactics they should employ to gain the greatest advantage politically.
On one side, there is the principled stance that threatening to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood is the only way to advance the issue by getting a spending bill on the president’s desk that eliminates the organization’s federal funding. On the other hand, center-right Republicans (like Boehner) have advocated for a more pragmatic approach. This is not an uncommon (nor unexpected) dispute, especially considering it was only 2 years ago that a group of Republicans led by Texas Senator (and presidential candidate) Ted Cruz successfully kept the government closed for several weeks in an attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as “Obamacare.”
As an alternative to this strategy, which many see as politically toxic for Republicans because they will be blamed for the suspension of the government (and all of the missed services, withheld paychecks, and idle federal programs), Boehner suggested that the party instead attack the issue through the Senate’s continuing resolution, using separate legislation to force an Obama veto on the Planned Parenthood proposal without affecting the government’s funding.
Like-minded Republicans have similarly come up with a short-term spending measure that would extend the government’s funding through at least mid-December before the matter must be resolved.
Mr. Boehner has served Ohio’s 8th district for the past 24 years, ascending to a leadership position within the party as House Majority Leader for the Republicans in 2006. He remained the party leader from 2007-2011, when the GOP held a minority of seats in the House, and has served as Speaker of the House for the past 4 years.
Although he boasts strong credentials as a politician, Boehner will undoubtedly be remembered for the difficulty with which he tried to keep his party unified in their strategies against the Democrat-controlled White House. Boehner even had trouble keeping party members in line with the GOP platform. When a leader in the legislature resigns, the odds are good that their legacy is spotty. If nothing else, Boehner represents the divergence between “establishment” Republicans and the growing group of liberty-oriented conservatives within the party.