House Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerJohn Feehery: GOP: Listen to Reince House GOP budget 'SWAT' team is formed GOP rep to retire, opening 10th Florida seat MORE told GOP lawmakers on Friday he will resign at the end of October, capping a tumultuous four-and-half-year reign in which he repeatedly clashed with unruly conservatives in his own party.
"The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love," Boehner said.
"It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House.
It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on October 30."
While Boehner has been under constant fire from conservatives for not doing more to restrain the federal government, he said that under his leadership much had been accomplished.
“Today, my heart is full with gratitude for my family, my colleagues, and the people of Ohio’s Eighth District," he concluded. "God bless this great country that has given me — the son of a bar owner from Cincinnati — the chance to serve."
“Everybody’s still in sort of a state of shock,” he said.
According to Mica, Boehner told members that he thought opposition to his role as Speaker was becoming a distraction from broader policy debates.
“He just does not want to become the issue,” said Mica. “Some people have tried to make him the issue, both in Congress and outside.
“We’ll just have to regroup. We faced challenges before.”
Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot, a fellow Ohio Republican and close Boehner ally, described the room as "somber."
The famously emotional Boehner shed some tears, as did many other lawmakers.
"You have to put up with a lot of crap when you're Speaker, and he's put up with a lot of it," Chabot said, emerging from the meeting. "I hope the next person on the next team will bring this conference together and do what's necessary to move this country forward."
A GOP lawmaker in the room said the meeting also had moments of laughter. Boehner and lawmakers joked about his favorite endearing term for his colleagues: "shithead."
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) is seen as one strong possibility.
"I assume Kevin McCarthy would likely succeed him," said Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.).
The Hill reported last week that conservatives were warming to the idea of McCarthy as Speaker, as part of a coalition that would also include other conservative lawmakers.
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), a co-founder of the Freedom Caucus who has been a thorn in Boehner's side in recent weeks, said the Speaker had "served with honor and distinction and his resignation was done with real class."
Meadows, before Congress's August recess, introduced a measure that could have led to Boehner's ouster. Since then, he and other conservatives had suggested they might try to force a vote on the measure to end Boehner's Speakership.
On Friday, Meadows said he would not run for the position.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), a Boehner ally, rejected some members' claims that the departure was the result of internal party pressure.
“Don’t think for a minute that he was forced out,” Cole said. “Any kind of contest he’s ever been in he’s won one-handedly, and I think that would have happened again if anybody had the nerve to challenge him.”
Cole added that too many House conservatives had been unfairly blaming Boehner for circumstances beyond his control.
“For four years, he’s been both the point of the spear and the goalie at the same time — technically both offense and defense, by himself,” he said. “It’s disappointing, some on our own team haven’t thought about that and understood the difficulties he had and the support he deserved. He earned it.”
“I don’t think anybody is irreplaceable, but I think he’s as close as it gets around here,” Cole said.
—Peter Schroeder and Sarah Ferris contributed to this report. This post has been updated.