Speaker John A. Boehner surprised the GOP conference Friday by announcing he would resign at the end of October. But among all the shock and disbelief was the quiet acknowledgment among conservatives that it was time for the Ohio Republican to go.
“I thought it was expected, and I think it’s probably the best avenue,” Ted Yoho told reporters minutes after Boehner announced his decision. The Florida Republican was one of the co-sponsors of a resolution to remove Boehner. And while Yoho wouldn’t explicitly take credit, he noted the resolution and associated efforts to take down Boehner probably played a role. “It was an instrument that was out there, that, you know, I’m sure weighed in here, but as far as how much, I’m sure you’d have to ask Mr. Boehner.”
Thomas Massie, R-Ky., another co-sponsor of the resolution — one who actually helped write the legislation to strip Boehner of his gavel — was more direct.
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“This wouldn’t be happening if the resolution weren’t introduced,” Massie said.
Massie was one of the few congressman to publicly predict Boehner’s demise, and he said Friday it was obviously expected.
“It was inevitable given public sentiment, and the pressure the public was putting on their congressman, that was then reflected back on the speaker,” Massie said.
When CQ Roll Call asked Tim Huelskamp how much the Kansas Republican thought conservatives were the reason Boehner was resigning, Huelskamp was definitive.
“There’s no question in my mind,” Huelskamp said. “He didn’t have the votes to keep the job. That’s why he didn’t call a vote in July, and that’s why he didn’t call a vote today.”
Many conservatives have said Boehner sealed his fate when he didn’t move to table the resolution to remove him the day after Mark Meadows, R-N.C., dropped the resolution. And Huelskamp was emphatic that, had Boehner faced a vote on the floor, the Ohio Republican would have needed Democrats to support him.
“We had the votes,” Huelskamp said. “It’s clear. That’s one thing John Boehner did pretty well was counting votes, and he knew when his time was up. So we finally agree on one thing.”
Boehner, for his part, gave a news conference Friday where he offered some insight into his decision — and it didn’t completely contradict conservatives. Boehner cited “this turmoil that’s been churning for a couple of months,” and a concern that this “prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution.”
He decided he didn’t want to put his members through another tough vote to keep him, especially when he had one foot out the door anyway.
Boehner, 65, said he planned to resign last year on his birthday, Nov. 17, but former Majority Leader Eric Cantor’s primary defeat in the summer of 2014 kept him here. “I didn’t frankly believe it was right for me to leave at the end of last year,” Boehner said.
Still, the speaker’s weariness never went away. And with the efforts to depose him, he just thought it was time.
“Yesterday, when I met with him,” Arizona Republican Matt Salmon said, “I kind of figured that something was up.”
A small group of House Freedom Caucus members met with Boehner on Thursday to discuss decisions on spending and Planned Parenthood, and Salmon, who was one of the HFC members in attendance, said he gathered that Boehner’s will to stay was wilting. Salmon said Boehner realized that, “maybe he was becoming the issue instead of the issues becoming the issues.”
When CQ Roll Call asked Salmon how much he thought the resolution played into Boehner’s decision, Salmon said he thought it was a “big part of it.”
“Because even if he had survived,” Salmon continued, “the prediction was that he would have survived with Democratic votes, so I think he realized that that was probably not a good way to stay.”
Still, as much credit as conservatives want to take, it’s clear this was Boehner’s decision. It just may be one that conservatives made easy for him.
Emma Dumain contributed to this report.