Surprise! Speaker John Boehner to resign from Congress

Will depart Congress at the end of September, tells House Republican Conference on Friday. Increases likelihood of a cave on Planned Parenthood defunding, possibly avoids bloody internal fight over immigration.

House Speaker John Boehner to join former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor in retirement, again likely due to defiance of the Republican base. (CDN internal photo)

WASHINGTON, Sept. 25, 2015 – Irritating increasingly feisty conservative and tea party Republicans alike, House Speaker John Boehner announced Friday morning that he would retire from Congress effective at the end of January. Republican Representative Bill Huizenga tweeted the news at about 9:30 this morning, eliciting at least one rather exuberant response.

Speculation is that Boehner didn’t have the heart for yet another government shutdown battle with Democrats and with his own backbenchers over the increasingly hot issue of defunding Planned Parenthood grants in the upcoming FY 2016 budget, covering the new fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

President Obama has already issued a veto threat on any such legislation, but Boehner apparently believes that the Republicans will be blamed for any resulting government shutdown anyway even thought such an action would be the direct result of the presidential veto.

It’s also clear that Boehner is increasingly losing the confidence of his own substantial Republican majority. For these reasons, buzz on the Hill is that Boehner intends to compromise with the Democrats and leave the defunding of Planned Parenthood out of any budget bills, something that could be viewed either as a final act of statesmanship or a final betrayal of the Republican majority resoundingly re-elected to run the House in 2014.

Hinting at additional political issues, possibly regarding the out-of-control U.S. illegal immigrant situation, Boehner aide told NBC News that the speaker was only planning to serve through the end of the year, but Rep. Eric Cantor’s loss last year had changed that calculation.

“Speaker Boehner believes that the first job of any speaker is to protect this institution and, as we saw yesterday with the Holy Father, it is the one thing that unites and inspires us all,” the aide said. “The speaker believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.”

Cantor, the former House majority leader, lost his longtime Virginia seat in 2014 via a stunning Republican primary upset. The winner of that contest, political neophyte David Brat, went on to win the seat for the Republicans largely on the third-rail issue of illegal immigration.

In an obvious tilt toward the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and big business interests, Boehner and the Republican leadership have continued to defy the clear demands from their grassroots constituency to try to put a halt to President Obama’s job-destroying and likely illegal open borders policy, attempting instead to craft a new “comprehensive immigration legislation,” perhaps in conjunction with House and Senate Democrats.

This apparent tilt in favor of wealthy business owners seeking cheap labor has consistently alienated the Republican base and may lead to continued turmoil even after Boehner departs. The Republican split on this gut issue has also contributed to the rise of political outsiders in the battle for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination–most particularly favoring controversial business mogul Donald Trump, who has come out strongly against any “comprehensive immigration legislation” that looks and feels like amnesty.

This is a developing story.

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Terry Ponick
Biographical Note: Dateline Award-winning music and theater critic for The Connection Newspapers and the Reston-Fairfax Times, Terry was the music critic for the Washington Times print edition (1994-2010) and online Communities (2010-2014). Since 2014, he has been the Business and Entertainment Editor for Communities Digital News (CDN). A former stockbroker and a writer and editor with many interests, he served as editor under contract from the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and continues to write on science and business topics. He is a graduate of Georgetown University (BA, MA) and the University of South Carolina where he was awarded a Ph.D. in English and American Literature and co-founded one of the earliest Writing Labs in the country. Twitter: @terryp17