House Republicans said Friday they were stunned by Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE’s (R-Ohio) announcement that he plans to resign as their leader and from Congress at the end of October.
BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerRift widens between business groups and House GOP Juan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Debt ceiling games endanger US fiscal credibility — again MORE made the announcement at a closed-door conference meeting, which led to a long round of applause for him.
“He didn’t give anyone a heads up. This was a surprise to all of us,” Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), former chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told reporters after the meeting.
“He will be a great loss to us in many, many ways,” he said, adding, ”You can’t replace somebody with nobody and there’s a great void when he steps down.”
Rep. Steve WomackStephen (Steve) Allen WomackArkansas legislature splits Little Rock in move that guarantees GOP seats Funding fight imperils National Guard ops Overnight Defense: 6B Pentagon spending bill advances | Navy secretary nominee glides through hearing | Obstacles mount in Capitol security funding fight MORE (R-Ark.) said lawmakers were shocked at the announcement but said Thursday was one of the defining moments in his Speakership when Pope Francis addressed Congress.
Womack said he wasn’t surprised Boehner would want to end on a high note.
“He was obviously choked up as one could predict, but again, let me just say [I was] surprised somewhat, but then given the events of yesterday, it’s a pretty good way to go out.”
Asked what Boehner’s message to Republicans was, Womack said, “How much he loves us. How much he loves the conference and how much he loves the institution, and he does.”
The timing came as a shock to even some of Boehner’s staunchest foes, including Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who was one of three members signing onto a resolution to oust Boehner earlier this summer.
“I didn’t really expect it to precipitate this quickly. But what happened, is the rats on the ship started biting each other, and accelerated this,” he said.
Conservatives in the House had been threatening Boehner’s Speakership for months, and their pressure had intensified over the latest debate over government spending and Planned Parenthood.
Massie said Boehner's resignation was “inevitable” and advised the next House Speaker to read the motion to vacate a Speaker.
“If they don’t read the motion to vacate, they have no business applying to the job,” he said. “What has happened here is our republic was subverted because the Speaker abused his power. We are at an apex. The Speaker has so much power over every committee chairman, and that is something that is unhealthy for our republic. He took everybody’s voting card.”
Rep. Steve Stivers (R-Ohio), however, said he doesn’t think Boehner resigned because he reached a breaking point.
“I don’t think it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I think yesterday was the culmination of his career. And he gets a chance to really go out on a high note and now I think we’ll see him do a few things in October,” he said.
With only one month to go before Boehner’s departure, Stivers said to expect October to be “busy” as Boehner works to finish off a highway bill, a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and an increase to the debt ceiling.
Stivers added, “I don’t think anybody wanted this to happen...I know he could have survived.”
Many lawmakers coming out of the meeting said they didn’t know who could succeed Boehner and didn’t offer any possible candidates’ names.
Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said while he doesn’t know who should take over, conservatives have some requirements in mind for that person.
“What conservatives will be looking for are promises of procedure, that we’re going to open it up and let conservatives have a voice. I mean this place is run by mods ... moderate Republicans,” he said.
Huelskamp said Boehner didn’t do “a very good job” satisfying conservatives, who he said outweigh moderates in the party.
“This is a conservative party. If you don’t know like the conservative party, go to the other one. That’s certainly the liberal party. This party caters to the 10 or 20 that are RINOs, and I get that.”
This story was updated at 11:46 a.m.