WASHINGTON (AP) — 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 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. He said he would step down from the speaker's job he's held for nearly five years, and from Congress, at the end of October.
One important result: A government shutdown threatened for next week is all but sure to be averted — but only for now. A new December deadline and a potentially market-rattling fight over the government's borrowing limit still lie ahead.
See photos of Boehner during his time as House Speaker:
John Boehner during his time as speaker
Speaker Boehner resigns from Congress, victory for tea party
FILE - In this July 29,2015 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. According to GOP lawmakers, Boehner to step down end of October. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio becomes emotional as Pope Francis appears on the Speaker's Balcony on Capitol Hill, Thursday, Sept. 24, 2015 and waves to the waiting crowd. The pope addressed a joint meeting of Congress before stepping out on the balcony. Between the pope and Boehner is Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 24: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) (R) speaks with Pope Francis (L) in the U.S. Capitol building before the Pontiff speaks to a joint meeting of Congress September 24, 2015 in Washington, DC. Pope Francis will be the first Pope to ever address a joint meeting of Congress. The Pope is on a six-day trip to the U.S., with stops in Washington, New York City and Philadelphia. (Photo By Bill Clark-PoolGetty Images)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, July 29, 2015. An effort by a conservative Republican to strip Boehner of his position as the top House leader is largely symbolic, but is a sign of discontent among the more conservative wing of the House GOP. On Tuesday, Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, who was disciplined earlier this year by House leadership, filed a resolution to vacate the chair, an initial procedural step.(AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
FILE - In this June 28, 2015 file photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio meets with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, to talk about the Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Having lost their latest war against President Barack Obamaâs health care overhaul, Republicans must decide how to wage battles that could fan the issue for the 2016 elections. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 19: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) arrives for his weekly press conference at the U.S. Capitol on March 19, 2015 in Washington, DC. Boehner answered questions on the Republican budget, Hillary Clinton's emails, and other topics during the press conference. (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, left, kisses House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif., right, in the Rose Garden of the White House before President Barack Obama's remarks to members of Congress, Tuesday, April 21, 2015 in Washington. Obama thanked those who supported H.R. 2, the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act of 2015 to improve the affordability and quality of health care for the youngest and oldest in the nation. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listens during a news conference following a meeting on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2015. Boehner said he's waiting for the Senate to act on legislation to fund the Homeland Security Department ahead of Friday's midnight deadline. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio responds to reporters about the impasse over passing the Homeland Security budget because of Republican efforts to block President Barack Obama's executive actions on immigration, Thursday, Feb. 26, 2015, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The House voted last month to end Homeland Security funding on Saturday unless Obama reverses his order to protect millions of immigrants from possible deportation. After Democratic filibusters blocked the bill in the Senate, the chamber's Republican leaders agreed this week to offer a "clean" funding measure, with no immigration strings attached. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio casts multiple shadows as he leaves the Rayburn Room on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, after presiding over ceremonial re-enactments of the House swearing-in ceremony. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, kisses House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of Calif. after being re-elected to a third term during the opening session of the 114th Congress, as Republicans assume full control for the first time in eight years, Tuesday, Jan. 6, 2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington. AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais )
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks to the House chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 31, 2014, for final votes as Congress rushes for the doors and a five-week summer recess. The institutional split of a Republican-led House and Democratic-controlled Senate has added up to inaction, especially in a midterm election year with control of the Senate at stake. Lawmakers have struggled to compromise on a handful of bills to deal with the nation's pressing problems amid overwhelming partisanship. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio waits to speak on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 9, 2014, following a Republican strategy session after returning from a five-week recess. Boehner said Islamic State militants are a serious threat that must be dealt with in Iraq, Syria or wherever they exist and insisted that no decision would be made on a congressional vote until President Barack Obama lays out his strategy to defeat the militants. Boehner and other congressional leaders are heading to the White House this afternoon for a meeting with Obama. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio tickles John Griffin III, son of Rep. Tim Griffin, R-Ark., outside his office, after a House vote, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner said Thursday he will give President Barack Obama a proposal temporarily extending the government's ability to borrow money and averting a potential default _ but only if he agrees to negotiate over ending a partial government shutdown and a longer-term increase in the debt ceiling. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, center, joined by fellow Republicans, speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013, following a closed-door GOP meeting, to announce that House Republicans will advance legislation to temporarily extend the government's ability to borrow money to meet its financial obligations. From left are, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., Rep. Jeb Hensarling, R-Texas, Boehner, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., and Rep. Lynn Jenkins, R-Kansas. The federal government remains partially shut down for a 10th day and faces a first-ever default between Oct. 17 and the end of the month. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio walks to a House Republican Conference meeting to discuss the ongoing budget fight, Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Republican unity showed unmistakable signs of fraying Monday as Democrats and the White House vowed to reject tea party-driven demands to delay the nation's health care overhaul as the price for averting a partial government shutdown at midnight. (AP Photo/ Evan Vucci)
House Speaker John Boehner, of Ohio, speaks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 26, 2013, after a closed-door strategy session. Pressure is building on fractious Republicans over legislation to prevent a partial government shutdown, as the Democratic-led Senate is expected to strip a tea party-backed plan to defund the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as "Obamacare," from their bill. Boehner originally preferred a plan to deliver to President Obama a stopgap funding bill without the provision to eliminate the health care law. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, leaves after a three hour photo session with members of the new 113th Congress that convened on Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013, in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama gestures while giving his State of the Union address on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012. Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio listen at rear. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, are on the first green as they play golf at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Saturday, June 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
Following a meeting with President Barack Obama today, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, accompanied by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., talks about the budget, Tuesday, April 5, 2011, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., walk out to speak to reporters after their meeting at the White House in Washington with President Obama regarding the budget and possible government shutdown, Wednesday, April 6, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
House Speaker-designate John Boehner of Ohio wipes away tears as he waits to receive the gavel from outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of Calif. during the first session of the 112th Congress, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 5, 2011. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)
House Republican leader John Boehner of Ohio celebrates the GOP's victory that changes the balance of power in Congress and will likely elevate him to speaker of the House, during an election night gathering hosted by the National Republican Congressional Committee at the Grand Hyatt hotel in Washington, Tuesday, Nov. 2, 2010. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)
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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.
It also came before what would have been a new low: a potential floor vote to oust him as speaker, pushed by Republican tea partyers convinced he was capitulating in a struggle over Planned Parenthood funding that threatened a government shutdown next Thursday. Such a formal challenge against a speaker has not been used in the House for over 100 years.
On Friday, an upbeat Boehner declared that he'd decided to spare the House, and himself, the chaos such a vote would bring.
"It's become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution," he said.
"I don't want my members to have to go through this. I certainly don't want the institution to go through this," he said. 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.
Even as he announced his plans to leave, Boehner told lawmakers they could expect to vote next week on legislation to fund the government through Dec. 11 with Planned Parenthood funding intact, a bill likely to pass with Democratic help, notwithstanding conservative complaints.
So no shutdown for now. 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, or making the deals with the White House and Senate Republicans that Boehner habitually cut to keep the gears of government running.
Although a disorderly leadership race is certain for some of the top jobs, the likeliest contender to replace Boehner is his current No. 2, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, whom Boehner endorsed on Friday, saying he "would make an excellent speaker."
After Boehner's announcement, President Barack Obama praised him as "a good man" and a patriot.
"Maybe most importantly, he's somebody who understands that in government and governance, you don't get 100 percent of what you want," the president said. "We can have significant differences on issues but that doesn't mean you shut down the government."
With his relaxed and sociable demeanor, love of golf and well-known tendency to cry in public, Boehner was popular among House Republicans. But though he is also known as a strong conservative, his tactics were never confrontational enough to satisfy the most conservative faction.
He said he had planned all along to announce in November that he was resigning at the end of this year, but had not said so publicly. After emotional moments Thursday at the pope's side, he woke up Friday morning and decided now was the time.
A number of conservative lawmakers cheered the news. "We need bold leadership, and this gives us a chance to get it," said Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas.
Outside tea party groups also declared victory, underscoring a schism between conservative base voters and establishment leaders that has made Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell nearly as scorned in some quarters of the GOP as Obama himself.
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. Ted Cruz asked the crowd. "Yesterday, John Boehner was speaker of the House. Y'all come to town and somehow that changes. 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.
Boehner is just the latest in a long line of speakers to have been driven from the office. Every speaker since Thomas "Tip" O'Neill retired in 1987 has stepped aside under pressure or lost the job when the House majority flipped.
Boehner, 65, took over the speakership in January 2011. 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. The move was unsuccessful. Nonetheless, tea party lawmakers had been pressing him to retry the tactic to try to take away federal funding from Planned Parenthood following the disclosure of controversial videos involving its practices of procuring fetal tissue for research purposes.
Surprised Democrats saw disorder in the House GOP, with Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling Boehner's resignation "seismic."
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 ousted from his leadership role after the GOP's disappointing performance in the 1998 midterms but eventually climbed back to the top.
On Friday aides circulated a list of accomplishments including banning earmarks, enacting money-saving reforms to Medicare this year, and leading education reforms.