Skip to content

#tbt: Boehner Responds to Leadership Chaos…in 1998

Livingston walks back to his office after resigning as speaker-elect. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
Livingston walks back to his office after resigning as speaker-elect. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s decision Thursday to take himself out of the race for speaker immediately brought to mind the tumultuous end to 1998, when Speaker-elect Bob Livingston announced on the floor — as the House was considering resolutions of impeachment against President Bill Clinton — that he would be resigning.  

Roll Call’s Ed Henry caught up with John A. Boehner in the immediate wake of those stunning turn of events at the Capitol in mid-December 1998. Overwhelming Events Overwhelm Everyone: Too Much News Makes for an Amazing Day in a Historic Year By Ed Henry, Dec. 21, 1998  

As he puffed on a cigarette in a quiet corner of the Speaker’s Lobby, Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, tried to make sense of the stunning series of events that had rocked Congress.  

In the span of a month, Members of the House had lost two Speakers. And now, with bombs falling on Iraq Saturday, they had just impeached President Clinton.  

“I can’t say what I want to say,” said Boehner. But then he changed his mind.  

“It’s like screw the … proverb, ‘May you live in interesting times,'” he said. “I don’t need this much excitement in my life.”  

Just 31 days earlier, Boehner had lost his job as GOP Conference Chairman and Rep. Bob Livingston, R-La., had been tapped to replace Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga.  

Everyone thought the earth-shattering developments were over. But then last Thursday, Livingston confessed to his colleagues that he had committed adultery several times during his tenure in Congress.  

The GOP Conference gave Livingston a rousing ovation, however, and it seemed as though another storm had passed. Then on Saturday morning, Livingston abruptly announced that he would resign.  

Reporters and Members quickly converged on the historic Speaker’s Lobby, just off the House floor, quizzing one another about how so much had happened so fast.  

“We don’t have any more front burners to occupy,” said Rep. Richard Baker, R-La., as he passed through the lobby. “This has not been a rational day.”  

There were so many journalists in the lobby — ranging from television stars like Maria Shriver to reporters from middle America who had dropped in to witness the historic day — that the furniture had to be rearranged to make room for everyone. Members complained that reporters were blocking their path to the bathroom outside the lobby.  

But everyone did their best to put a historic spin on the stunning confluence of so many big stories.  

“It’s a solemn time,” said one House GOP leadership aide. “Nobody’s celebrating any victories.”  

McCarthy Shocks Conference by Dropping Speaker Bid

Boehner Will Stay On Until New Speaker Elected

Members React to McCarthy’s Decision to Drop Speaker Bid

Will Speakers Ever Again Be Able to Stay on Their Own Terms?

See photos, follies, HOH Hits and Misses and more at Roll Call’s new video site.

Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.

Recent Stories

Biden, ‘Big Four’ to meet as spending talks sputter

Alabama IVF ruling spurs a GOP reckoning on conception bills

House to return next week as GOP expects spending bills to pass

FEC reports shine light on Super Tuesday primaries

Editor’s Note: Never mind the Ides of March, beware all of March

Supreme Court to hear arguments on online content moderation