The month of September was incredibly busy, even for the nation’s Capitol. The United States Congress finished taking sides regarding the Iran Nuclear Deal and a faction of the Republican Party supported a shutdown of the federal government over funding for Planned Parenthood. D.C. welcomed world leaders in September, including Chinese President Xi Jinping and His Holiness Pope Francis, who addressed a joint session of Congress. As D.C. welcomes some leaders, it says goodbye to others. One farewell in particular, sets an ominous tone for bipartisanship in D.C. politics.
Speaker of the House and Congressional representative of Ohio’s 8th district John Boehner announced Friday, September 25th 2015 that he would be resigning his position of Speaker and his seat in Congress. After serving as Speaker of the House for four years, Boehner has decided to step down form a position that is seen by many as one of, if not the most powerful position in the Republican Party. This choice did not seem to come easily to Mr. Boehner, however he appears at ease with his decision. Politics and partisanship aside, Speaker Boehner’s class and integrity are noted continuously among even his most ardent enemies in Congress. It appears that Speaker Boehner’s departure will not be celebrated, but rather mourned by Democrats and moderate Republicans alike, and for a very good reason.
Speaker Boehner’s resignation was not a result of a November electoral change in congressional leadership or a powerful Democratic minority. Rather, it was the direct result of opposition from the far right of the Republican Party. These representatives and outspoken citizens believe that, under John Boehner’s leadership, the Republican dominated House has been weak in dealing with the executive branch. Whether it was his efforts to reign in the national debt or his willingness to reach across the isle on occasion, John Boehner felt massive amounts of pressure from far right wing Republicans and many members of the House “Freedom” Caucus. Senator Harry Reid and Congressman Charles W. Dent were two of the more vocal members of Congress who commended Boehner’s service to the United States, advocating cooperation and bipartisanship during this time. New York Representative Peter King put Boehner’s resignation more bluntly: “The crazies have taken over the (Republican) Party.”
While some see Representative King’s comments as inflammatory, his comments speak to a majority of the Republican Party’s “establishment” base. Most Republicans do not support antiestablishment candidates, however those who do support them are much more active and vocal. Outside of D.C. politics, you can find a similar theme of far right wing antiestablishment belief in the success of Donald Trump, Carly Fiorina, and Dr. Ben Carson in the 2016 Republican presidential primary polls, none of who have ever been elected to public office. The members of the Republican Party supporting these candidates of both parties are tired of typical politicians making promises they can’t keep, from either party. A similar movement brought in new and increasingly conservative politicians into Congress in the 2014 Congressional elections, including Iowa Senator Jodi Ernst and Virginia Congressman Dave Brat, who ousted former House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.
Bringing it all back to Speaker Boehner’s resignation, he was driven out for being too cooperative, in the eyes of some Republicans. I mentioned previously of a potential government shutdown over the federal funding of Planned Parenthood. A continuing resolution was voted on to continue the operation of the federal government until another vote takes place in December, so the debate on Planned Parenthood funding has been pushed off for a few more months. However, Speaker Boehner had to stand against his antiestablishment party mates in assuring the public that there was an alternate route to a government shutdown, which would result in an incredible blow against the GOP as a whole. Either Boehner would lead the GOP into another highly unpopular government shutdown, or he would give into the will of the most vocal members of his party. He chose the latter, sacrificing his political career for the continued “operation” of the Republican Party in the U.S. Congress.
Is what Representative King says true? Is the Republican Party too far right to salvage? Can a new leader bring the U.S. Congress out of a perpetual state of disagreement? Only time will tell. Regardless of party, one thing most voters agree on is that cooperation and bipartisanship is always a better alternative to gridlock. We, as citizens, can only hope the next Speaker of the House acts rationally in defending his/her beliefs, while cooperating with the entirety of the United States Congress.