Boehner gets ready for goodbye

Boehner gets ready for goodbye
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Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerAre maskless House members scofflaws? Israel, Democrats and the problem of the Middle East Joe Crowley to register as lobbyist for recording artists MORE doesn’t leave office until Friday, but the moving boxes are already piling up at his suite just off the Capitol rotunda.

Dozens of the Ohio Republican’s staffers have begun packing up their belongings, uncertain of whether they’ll be asked to stay on board with Boehner’s expected successor, Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.), or be forced to seek other work on the Hill or on K Street.


A source close to Boehner says both the Speaker and his chief of staff, Mike Sommers, have been making calls around town to put in a good word for some of the nearly 70 staffers who work out of Boehner’s Speaker and congressional offices.

“When you have people like John Boehner and Paul Ryan, the people around them are very good people. They’re staffers who know the place, know the business, know the policy,” Rep. Tom Reed (R-N.Y.), a member of Ryan’s Ways and Means committee, told The Hill.

“Obviously, I’m interested. If we have an opportunity to fill, those are the type of people we look for.”

Two members of Boehner’s press shop recently landed other jobs: Katie Boyd signed on with Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), while Matt Wolking started this week with the special Benghazi Committee led by Chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.). Kevin McGrann, who runs Boehner’s political operation, is heading to AT&T’s lobbying shop.

House Republicans, in a closed-door vote on Wednesday, are expected to nominate Ryan to be the 54th Speaker of the House and the first in history from the Badger State. They’ll make it official with a floor vote the next day.

Boehner plans to resign from Congress on Friday, not even midway through his third term, after conservative rebels threatened to oust him from power.

“It did come so suddenly and I would think those conversations have taken place” about who is staying or going, said Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), a former committee chairman who has served in Congress with Boehner for a quarter century.

“I think Paul Ryan would feel very comfortable taking in many of Boehner’s staff for the time being, until he gets his crew going,” she said. “They are very tight, they are good friends.”

One of Ryan’s first and most important decisions will be to select a chief of staff to run the Speaker’s office. A possibility is Joyce Meyer, the staff director of the Ways and Means panel who has worked for Ryan since he joined Congress in 1999 and is frequently by his side.

But some GOP lawmakers and aides say Ryan may need to bring in a “powerhouse” player — perhaps someone with experience in both leadership and on K Street — given today’s politics, where one wrong move could spark a conservative coup against the Speaker.

“The key is naming the chief of staff for the office and everything flows from there,” said Ron Bonjean, a top aide to Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.), who came to power in 1999 after Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) resigned from the top job and Rep. Bob Livingston (R-La.) quit the race after admitting to an extramarital affair.

“It’s likely a chief has already been selected or they’re very close to it,” Bonjean said.

Ryan’s ascension to the Speaker’s office would also leave a vacancy in the top spot on Ways and Means, the influential panel that has jurisdiction over tax policy, trade and Medicare, among other things.

His reluctant decision to run for Speaker has sparked a three-way race for the Ways and Means gavel between Reps. Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio) and Devin Nunes (R-Calif.).

On the committee, Brady is second in seniority to Ryan; he’s also roommates with Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.), the No. 3 leader and the GOP’s chief vote counter. But Brady’s critics point out Texas already has plenty of committee gavels. Lawmakers from Texas chair five committees: Agriculture, Armed Services, Financial Services, Rules and Science.    

Tiberi officially jumped in the Ways and Means race this week, not even waiting for Ryan to win the Speaker’s gavel. And Nunes, who is third in seniority on the panel, has been flirting with a bid, even though he already chairs the prestigious Intelligence Committee.

Because the Intel post is one of four chairmanships handpicked by the Speaker, some GOP colleagues have speculated Nunes is making noise to ensure Ryan doesn’t boot him from his current job.

“I’m shocked” Nunes is considering running, said one senior GOP lawmaker. “It’s late in the game for him to do it. He has a great job as Intel chair, and I think he’s just trying to stay in.”

There’s also been no indication Ryan would oust mid-session Rules Chairman Pete Sessions (R-Texas), Administration Chairwoman Candice Miller (R-Mich.) or Ethics Chairman Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), who were picked by Boehner.

“I’m assuming I’m staying on,” Dent said.

But there will be immediate changes for Boehner and Ryan next week. For one, if Ryan is sworn in as Speaker, putting him second in line to the presidency, a Capitol Police security detail will begin tracking his every move, from Washington to his home in Janesville, Wisconsin.

Ryan, who at 45 would become the youngest Speaker in 150 years, knows what it’s like to lose his privacy. The congressman and his family received Secret Service protection when he was tapped as Mitt Romney’s vice presidential running mate in 2012.

As for Boehner, he’s probably looking forward to hitting the golf links and spending time with his new grandchild. But he’ll still have access to taxpayer-funded office space for years to come.

Under federal law, former Speakers can choose an office anywhere in the U.S. to “facilitate the administration, settlement, and conclusion of matters pertaining to or arising out of his incumbency in office as a Representative in Congress and as Speaker of the House of Representatives.”

On Friday, Boehner held court in the Capitol's ornate Rayburn Room, taking dozens of departure photos with his congressional colleagues, House and Senate staffers, as well as staff who manage the Capitol, including carpenters and furniture movers. 

At one point, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), who preceded Boehner as Speaker, cut the line to snap a photo with him.

Boehner aides said he would be taking hundreds of more photos with people who work in the Capitol during his final week in office.