Boehner to leave as Congress confronts intractable issues

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John Boehner's Turbulent Time as Speaker of the House



WASHINGTON (AP) — House Speaker John Boehner says he had planned to resign at the end of last year but stayed on because he feared a leadership shakeup would create too much turmoil for House Republicans.

Now he's stepping down at the end of October, when Congress could once again be scrambling to avert a looming government shutdown, the loss of federal funding for thousands of highway projects and an unprecedented government default.

Talk about turmoil.

Boehner announced his resignation Friday amid growing discontent among some of the most conservative members of the House Republican conference.

Some tea partyers were pushing for a vote to oust Boehner as speaker, a formal challenge that hasn't happened in more than 100 years. They complained that Boehner wasn't fighting hard enough to strip Planned Parenthood of government funds, even though doing so risked a government shutdown next week.

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John Boehner during his time as speaker
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Boehner to leave as Congress confronts intractable issues
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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"Listen, it was never about the vote, all right?" Boehner told reporters. "There was never any doubt about whether I could survive the vote."

But, he added, "I don't want my members to have to go through this. I certainly don't want the institution to go through this."

Besides, Boehner said, his new plan was to leave at the end of this year. Boehner said he had planned to announce it on his 66th birthday, Nov. 17.

"If I wasn't planning on leaving here soon, I can tell you I would not have done this," he said.

Boehner said he came to his decision Friday morning, a day after a historic visit to the Capitol by Pope Francis at his invitation. Boehner, a Catholic, said he woke up, said his prayers and decided "today's the day I'm going to do this."

He relayed a private moment when the pope put his arm around Boehner and asked the speaker to pray for him.

"Who am I to pray for the pope?" Boehner said. "But I did."

Boehner said he told House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, the No. 2 House Republican, about two minutes before he addressed a closed-door meeting of House Republicans Friday morning.

"I had to tell him five times because he didn't believe me," Boehner said.

It is uncertain who will succeed Boehner, but McCarthy, a genial Californian who was first elected to Congress in 2006, is the most obvious candidate.

While insisting the decision is up to fellow Republicans, Boehner declared that "Kevin McCarthy would make an excellent speaker."

After Boehner's announcement, McCarthy rushed past reporters and TV cameras, refusing to say anything.

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Boehner
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Boehner to leave as Congress confronts intractable issues
FILE - In this Feb. 6, 2014, photo, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio gestures while speaking during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. The road the country has been on for the past five years is now beginning to come to an end. The Federal Reserve, which pumped $3 trillion into the economy to keep the Great Recession from worsening, is withdrawing its financial lifeline amid signs of fresh economic growth. The nation?s gross domestic product is inching up and annual federal budget deficits are heading down. How Washington policymakers respond to the improvements in the economy may even sow the seeds for more cooperation in Washington. "The president?s policies are not working," Boehner declares.(AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014. Boehner said Thursday it will be difficult to pass immigration legislation this year, dimming prospects for one of President Barack Obama's top domestic priorities. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, right, accompanied by House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of Calif., left, and Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, R-Wash., speak to reporters about the Keystone XL Pipeline and other issues, following a Republican Conference meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
On the day of President Barack Obama?s State of the Union address, House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, meets with reporters at Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 28, 2014, after a GOP strategy session. Eager not to be limited by the legislative gridlock that has plagued the divided Congress, Obama is expected to underscore a go-it-alone strategy where he could bypass lawmakers and use executive actions to achieve his policy proposals. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio pauses while meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 16, 2014. On Wednesday, the Republican-run House passed an immense $1.1 trillion spending package, a bipartisan compromise that all but banishes the likelihood of an election-year government shutdown. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio pauses while meeting with reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014. Boehner says he believes New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remains a serious contender for the Republican 2016 presidential nomination, despite the traffic jam scandal engulfing the New Jersey governor. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio vehemently rebukes conservative groups who oppose the pending bipartisan budget compromise struck by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner said the GOP leadership has had enough tea party-driven intransigence in Congress and he doesn?t care what they think. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio vehemently rebukes conservative groups who oppose the pending bipartisan budget compromise struck by House Budget Committee Chairman Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and Senate Budget Committee Chairwoman Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., Thursday, Dec. 12, 2013, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. Boehner said the GOP leadership has had enough tea party-driven intransigence in Congress and he doesn?t care what they think. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2013. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
House Speaker John Boehner of Ohio pauses while meeting with reporters, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2013, before Congress leaves for a two-week Thanksgiving break. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
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Later, he issued a statement that said now is the time for House Republicans "to focus on healing and unifying to face the challenges ahead."

Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., said he and other conservatives would support "anybody who is willing to work to re-establish Congress as a co-equal branch of government."

"If that's Kevin McCarthy, great. If it's somebody else, great," Mulvaney added. "But I think one of the reasons you saw the pressure on John to leave is that John had allowed Congress to become irrelevant."

Mulvaney conceded that tea party Republicans don't have enough votes to elect one of their own as speaker.

"I do think, however, we have a bloc of 40 votes that will stick together and make sure that whoever is elected to whatever leadership positions are open will understand why we feel what we feel," Mulvaney said.

President Barack Obama, Boehner's frequent antagonist and occasional partner, called the speaker "a good man" and a patriot.

"And I think, 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. "But you have to work with people who you disagree with, and sometimes strongly, in order to do the people's business."

Boehner was first elected to the House in 1990 and was part of former Speaker Newt Gingrich's leadership team when Republicans took over the House in 1995.

Boehner 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 who abhorred his tendencies toward deal-making.

With his unnatural-looking tan, relaxed and sociable demeanor, love of golf and well-known tendency to cry in public, Boehner was widely popular among House Republicans.

Though he is also known as a strong conservative, his tactics were never confrontational enough to satisfy the most conservative faction in the House.

"We need bold leadership, and this gives us a chance to get it," said Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas.

Boehner's work is not yet done.

Unless Congress acts, the federal government faces a partial shutdown on Thursday. The Senate is scheduled to hold a procedural vote Monday on a bill to fund the government — including money for Planned Parenthood — into December.

Boehner also announced plans to schedule a vote on a government funding bill that includes money for Planned Parenthood before Wednesday's midnight deadline. It's likely to pass with Democratic support, setting up another funding fight in just a few months.

Also on the agenda, Congress has until Oct. 29 to renew federal highway programs, and the government's ability to pay its bills expires around Oct. 30. That means Congress will have to extend the government's borrowing authority or face a first-ever federal default.

"I'm not going to sit around here and do nothing for the next 30 days," Boehner said. "There's a lot of work that needs to be done. I plan on getting it as much of it done as I can before I exit."

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