Speaker John Boehner Resigns After Pope’s Historic Address to Congress

House Speaker John Boehner, a Catholic, revealed a day after Pope Francis's historic speech to Congress that he is resigning his office.
House Speaker John Boehner, a Catholic, revealed a day after Pope Francis's historic speech to Congress that he is resigning his office. (photo: Official portrait photo.)

A day after Pope Francis’s historic address to a joint meeting of Congress, House Speaker John Boehner announced his resignation from Congress.

The Catholic lawmaker told Republican leaders Friday morning he was giving up his Speaker’s gavel and his elected office representing Ohio’s 8th congressional district October 30, according to sources to the New York Times.

Boehner was elected to Congress in 1990, and took over leadership of the House Republican caucus as minority leader in 2007. He became Speaker of the House of Representatives in Jan. 2011, after Republicans took majority control of the chamber following the Nov. 2010 elections that were largely seen as a repudiation of President Barack Obama’s health care reform agenda.

Just a day before, Speaker Boehner achieved a personal dream of having the pope come address Congress in a joint meeting. Although monarchs, presidents, and prime ministers had the honor in the past, never had the head of the Catholic Church been given this opportunity. The Pope and Speaker also had a private conversation that day lasting several minutes.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), a Southern Baptist, is next in line for the House’s next Speaker, and become the second in line to assume the presidency after the vice president. However, that depends on whether enough conservative elements in the GOP caucus that have had a fractious relationship with Boehner will line up behind McCarthy.

Speculation abounds that one of the key factors involved in the Speaker’s decision to leave Congress is an upcoming fractious budgetary battle where he is under pressure to remove federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The move would likely see President Obama issue a veto, and shut down the government.

The Speaker oversaw a push to defund Planned Parenthood in 2011 that nearly brought the government to the brink of a shutdown as President Obama declared he would veto any budget legislation that deprived Planned Parenthood of government funding. Boehner backed off in exchange for budgetary concessions, a move criticized by some pro-life leaders, but praised by others as “the best deal possible” in light of the fact that without control of the White House and the Senate the legislation was going nowhere.

Although Republicans have taken control of the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been unwilling to attach legislation defunding Planned Parenthood to budgetary bills that only require a simple majority vote. As a stand-alone bill, the defunding legislation in that chamber garnered support from the majority, but the 53-46 vote in August favor fell short of the 60 votes necessary to end debate and bring the bill to the floor.

However, National Right to Life Commitee expressed its support of Speaker Boehner and his leadership legacy in the House of Representatives.

“Speaker John Boehner has been a dedicated ally in the fight to protect the most vulnerable members of our society. Throughout his career in the U.S. House, and most especially his tenure as speaker, he has demonstrated an unwavering commitment to the cause of life,” NRLC president Carol Tobias said in a statement. “All of us in the right-to-life movement are grateful to Speaker Boehner for his leadership in our common cause of working for the day when all members of the human family are protected by our nation’s laws.” 

The Register will have more as this story develops…