I woke up today to the surprising news that Speaker of The House John Boehner had announced that he will resign his seat in congress come October.
My first reaction to the headlines crawling across my Twitter feed was, “Why”.
So to answer that question for myself - and for all of you - here are the factors that contributed to this morning’s shocking revelation.
1. Planned Parenthood
Congress has been in turmoil for months grappling with the issue of Planned Parenthood. Hard-line conservatives have been pushing for a complete defunding of the longstanding service in the upcoming budget; a notion that has been scoffed at by Democrats, and by President Obama himself.
The issue has reached crisis levels, with Republicans threatening to shut down the government if an agreement is not reached by October 1.
Boehner’s stance has been to push for a partial defunding of the program. This middle-of-the-road mentality has placed the Speaker under tremendous political pressure from his own party. In order to spare both the GOP and the nation from the inevitable political maelstrom, Boehner choose to resign his position instead.
The Planned Parenthood debacle is merely the latest in a long series of conflicts between the Republican Speaker and the most emphatic conservatives of his own party.
There have been rumblings amongst the GOP members of ousting Boehner as Speaker from the day he took office, and they have become increasingly vehement as the party moves into an election year.
Just two days before Boehner announced his resignation an article on The Hill spoke to the tumultuous opposition the Speaker has been facing.
A small, but dedicated, community has apparently been stirring up a coup against Boehner behind closed doors for months. “You know there’s some drops of blood in the water, because all the sharks are starting to circle” said one of these conspirators, who desired to remain unnamed.
Boehner supporter Devin Nunes (R-Calif) has given this group of radicals the moniker of “Right Wing Marxists” (although they prefer to be called the “Freedom-Caucus”). And he has accused them of aiding the Democrats by undermining Boehner.
Boehner had, up until today, been playing it cool when it came to the obvious dissatisfaction of his party. However, his announcement today is leading many to believe that the Right Wing Marxists will be celebrating their victory tonight.
3. Party First
The bottom line is that John Boehner has proven he can take the heat. This is not the first time he has been the subject of a projected coup, and if he had stayed it would not have been the last. However, it seems Boehner was patently unwilling to mar his party’s public face on the precipice of such a vital election season.
In a statement released to the press a top aide of Boehner had this to say:
Speaker Boehner believes that the first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution and, as we saw yesterday with the Holy Father, it is the one thing that unites and inspires us all.
The Speaker’s plan was to serve only through the end of last year Leader Cantor’s loss in his primary changed that calculation.
The Speaker believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.
He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his speakership, but for the good of the Republican conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.
The next Speaker will be chosen by a vote of the Republican members of Congress. The Current frontrunner is Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif).
Update: Watch Boehner's full resignation speech below: