Boehner explains decision to step down

Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump may pose problem for Ryan in Speaker vote Conservatives backing Trump keep focus on Supreme Court Vote House Republicans out MORE (R-Ohio) became emotional Friday as he explained his surprise decision to step down from Congress.

Boehner said he began thinking about stepping down Thursday night and, after saying his morning prayers as usual on Friday, decided “today's the day I'm going to do this.”

Hard-line conservatives have been threatening to oust Boehner for months, which culminated when Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) introduced a resolution to oust him in August.

Boehner said bringing that resolution to a vote wouldn't end well for anyone.

“This turmoil that’s been churning now for the last couple months is not good for the members, and it’s not good for the institution,” he said.

He expressed confidence that he could have won re-election as Speaker, but said he didn’t want the House to deal with the drama.

“Listen, it was never about the vote, all right? There was never any doubt about whether I could survive the vote. But I don’t want my members to have to go through this and I certainly don’t want the institution to go through this,” Boehner said.

Boehner offered an endorsement of House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to succeed him as Speaker.

“I think Kevin McCarthy would make an excellent Speaker,” Boehner said.

McCarthy has held the majority leader post for just over a year after replacing Eric Cantor, who lost a primary election in 2014.

Boehner said he originally wanted to retire at the end of last year, but decided to wait in the aftermath of Cantor's shocking election loss to provide the House GOP with stability.

The famously emotional Speaker put on a happy face at the beginning of his press conference explaining his decision.

Before later having to wipe his eyes with a handkerchief, Boehner walked into the packed room singing “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah.” 

“My oh my, what a wonderful day,” Boehner sang with a wry smile.

He said the first person he told of his decision to leave Congress was his wife, Debbie.

Her reaction: “Good,” Boehner said.

His  eyes started to fill with tears as he described a private moment with Pope Francis on Thursday. Francis put his arm around Boehner and said gently, “Please pray for me.”

Boehner has tried throughout his 20 years in the House to invite a pope to speak before Congress — and finally succeeded with Francis. 

He spoke with his longtime chief of staff, Mike Sommers, on Thursday night and decided to sleep on the decision over whether to leave Congress.

By Friday morning, after ritual stops on Capitol Hill at Starbucks and Pete’s Diner, Boehner felt it was time to move on.

“I was thinking about walking out the door anyway,” Boehner explained. “It’s the right time to do it.”

This story was updated at 2:14 p.m.