Kyle Wingfield

Political commentary and opinion from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's conservative blogger

John Boehner is out. Is it fight time on Capitol Hill?


Whoa ... from the Washington Post :

"House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), faced with a constant conservative rebellion, told Republicans Friday morning that he will resign at the end of October, according to aides and lawmakers in a closed-door meeting.

"The resignation will end a nearly five-year reign as speaker, allowing House Republicans to approve a short-term government funding bill that will avert a shutdown of federal agencies. Boehner's hold on the speaker's gavel had grown increasingly unsteady amid threats from more than 30 Republicans that they would force a no-confidence vote in his speaker's position, which would have forced him to rely on Democratic votes in order to remain in charge.

"The shocking move means there's unlikely to be a government shutdown next week. Following Boehner's announcement, House Republicans said there was agreement to pass a clean spending bill to avert a government shutdown. Several members of the Freedom Caucus, the conservative group which led the revolt against Boehner's leadership, said they will now support the spending bill without demands to defund Planned Parenthood attached to it."

There had been rumblings of a challenge to Boehner, but we've heard those before. For him to step down now comes as a huge surprise.

It is telling that this decision came as a way to avert a shutdown. Not so much that a shutdown over the spending bill was in the offing, but that Boehner's scalp would be enough to satisfy those who were prepared to either block that bill if it included Planned Parenthood funding.

Let me say from the start that if Congress were to pass a spending bill, and President Obama were to veto it solely because it stripped funding from Planned Parenthood, the shutdown would be his fault. Period. You cannot say that Congress has the power of the purse on the one hand, and then blame Congress for exercising that power. If Congress passes a spending bill with every function of government funded and Obama vetoes it because it didn't fund one thing he wanted, he's the one being the ideologue. He can ask Congress to fund something, but if he insists on it to the point of delaying the funding of everything else, that's on him.

Not that I would expect it to be cast that way. It is easy to project that congressional Republicans would have gotten the blame from much of the news media. And more often than not, it seems, that kind of calculation has been at the bottom line of Boehner's decision-making. Maybe he was wrong, and the public would have seen through cries about obstructionist, anti-woman, ideological Republicans and understood Obama was the one keeping their Social Security checks from arriving and their parks from being open. Some folks on the right have argued that the shutdown of 2013 didn't hurt Republicans, because they took control of the Senate the following year. Maybe they're right -- or maybe the GOP got off easy because that shutdown coincided with the disastrous roll-out of the Obamacare exchange website, and Democrats simply took the brunt of that combined episode.

Either way, Boehner clearly didn't think this was a fight Republicans could win. A number of prominent conservatives wanted the fight anyway. I note that some of the same people mock those who say they support Donald Trump because "he fights."

Now we will see just how influential some of these voices, in and out of Congress, really are. If the next speaker doesn't govern much differently, will they decide maybe they were wrong to heap so much blame on Boehner personally? Will they try to replace the replacement? Could they end up realizing their problem is they don't have the votes to back up their rhetoric?

The choice of the next speaker could have a very interesting angle locally. As my colleague Greg Bluestein has already noted , Georgia's Tom Price will be part of the speculation, at least, as he's positioned himself well over the past several years to make a jump in the leadership ranks. That could also mean a big move up to the majority leader position .

(Note: The only thing John Boehner's ever done to me was make this announcement on what was supposed to be a day off. Obviously, since I took the time to post this, I'll also check every now and then to approve comments. But I won't be able to sit by the keyboard all day. Thanks in advance for your patience.)


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About the Author

Kyle Wingfield joined the AJC in 2009. He is a native of Dalton and a graduate of the University of Georgia.