By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter
Friday, September 28, the political world was rocked when the Speaker of the US House of Representative John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced that he had made the decision to resign from the both Speakership and his seat in the US House of Representatives.
Speaker Boehner said in a news conference on Friday, “A lot of you now know that my plan was to step down at the end of last year. I decided in November of 2010 when I was elected Speaker that serving two terms would have been plenty. But in June of last year, when it became clear that the majority leader (Rep. Eric Cantor (R-Virginia)) lost his election, I frankly didn’t believe it was right to leave at the end of last year. So my goal was to leave at the end of this year. So I planned, actually on my birthday, November 17th, to announce that I was leaving at the end of the year. But it’s become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution. So this morning, I informed my colleagues that I would resign from the Speakership and resign from Congress at the end of October.”
Congressman Gary Palmer (R-Hoover) is a member of the House Freedom Caucus that was often in conflict with some of the more moderate positions and strategies that Boehner and the GOP ‘establishment’ has taken. Rep. Palmer voted against Speaker Boehner returning as Speaker. It is likely that Palmer’s public campaign promise to oppose to Boehner being the Speaker helped him emerge as the GOP nominee in the crowded 2014 Primary field.
Rep. Palmer commented on Speaker Boehner’s announcement that he will resign as Speaker of the House and from Congress at the end of October: “Speaker Boehner’s decision to step down as Speaker is an extraordinary act of leadership. He did something that is very rare in politics, and among others who hold power: he voluntarily gave it up. In doing so, he put what was in the best interest of the people he was leading ahead of his own interests. And it is for this that he should be remembered.”
Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose) was a friend of Speaker Boehner’s. Boehner helped raise funds for Byrne’s 2013 campaign over the more fiery Dean Young in a Special GOP Primary runoff race that drew nationwide attention. Young had vowed to voters that he would vote against Boehner as Speaker. Byrne’s support for the Speaker likely cost him some votes in the tight race. That support for the Speaker was becoming a negative in Republican Primaries was a sign that a leadership change was becoming eminent.
Rep. Byrne said: “I want to thank Speaker Boehner for his service to Congress and our nation. Now is the time for our Republican Conference to put our differences aside and unite behind a leader who not only helps push back against the Obama agenda but who also offers conservative solutions to solve problems facing the American people.”
Congressman Dave Brat (R-Virginia) upset key Boehner ally, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in last year’s Republican Primary demonstrating the growing grassroots unpopularity of some positions that the House leadership had taken, such as funding Obamacare and promoting a bipartisan immigration reform supported by President Obama. Brat, along with Alabama Congressmen Palmer and Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) were members of the growing House Freedom Caucus.
Rep. Brat said in a statement, “I want to thank Speaker Boehner for his honorable service to our nation. He undoubtedly served with love for all people and our country. His job was not always easy, facing pressures from a highly political and unlawful White House as well as diverse opinions within the Republican House conference. While I have not always agreed with leadership, I respect Speaker Boehner for his time served and wish him and his family the best during this time. I would also like to thank the Speaker for making this difficult and selfless decision.”
Congressman Mark Meadows (R-North Carolina) released the following statement:
“Speaker Boehner has served honorably during a difficult time for Republicans when the threat of a veto from the White House constantly impedes our legislative agenda. At times I differed with Speaker Boehner on policy or procedural positions, but I commend him for his honorable service, his humility, his undeniable love for his country and his desire to serve this great nation. I look forward to an open and inclusive discussion as the House pursues new leadership. There are critically important issues the House must address in the coming months. It is of the utmost importance that our new leadership reflect the diverse makeup of the House Republican Conference and, ultimately, that the voices of the American people are heard through their elected representatives.”
Meadows (a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus) had demanded that the Speaker vacate the chair in July.
Speaker Boehner said, “My mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government. Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children. We’re now on track to cut government spending by $2.1 trillion over the next 10 years. We’ve made the first real entitlement reform in nearly two decades. And we’ve protected 99 percent of Americans from permanent tax increases. We’ve done all this with a Democrat in the White House. So I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
Speaker Boehner said, “Now, as you’ve often heard me say, this isn’t about me. It’s about the people, it’s about the institution. Just yesterday, we witnessed the awesome sight of Pope Francis addressing the greatest legislative body in the world. And I hope that we will all heed his call to live by the Golden Rule. But last night, I had started to think about all this. Then this morning, I woke up, said my prayers, as I always do. And I decided, you know, today’s the day I’m going to do this, as simple as that.”
Boehner continued, “That’s the code I’ve always lived by: if you do the right things for the right reasons, the right things will happen. And I know good things lie ahead for this House and this country. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and I’m especially proud of my team. This is my 25th year here, and I’ve succeeded in putting a staff together and a team together, many of whom have been with me for a long time. Without a great staff, you can’t be a great member, and you certainly can’t be a great Speaker. I want to thank my family for putting up with this all these years. My poor girls, who are now 37 and 35. Their first campaign photo was in July of 1981, and so, they’ve had to endure all this. It’s one thing for me to have to endure it. I’ve got thick skin. But, you know, the girls and my wife, they had to put up with a lot over the years.”
Boehner said, “Let me express my gratitude to my constituents, who’ve sent me here 13 times over the last 25 years. You can’t get here without getting votes. But — I say this often. People ask me, what’s the greatest thing about being speaker, or about being an elected official? And I said, well, it’s the people you get to meet. You know, I have met tens of thousands of people in my own congressional district that I would have not met, other than the fact I decided to ran for Congress. Over the years, as I traveled on behalf of my colleagues and the party, I’ve met tens of thousands of additional people all over the country. And you meet rich people, you meet poor people, you meet interesting people. Probably a few boring ones along the way. But I can tell you that 99.9 percent of the people I meet on the road, anywhere, could not be — could not be nicer than they’ve been. It’s been — really, it’s been wonderful. It’s been an honor to serve in this institution.”
Congressman Gary Palmer represents Alabama’s Sixth Congressional District. Congressman Bradley Byrne represents Alabama’s First Congressional District.