Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is leaving on his own terms, at least insofar as the timing is concerned. The Republican leader faced the likelihood of an attempted coup -- whether or not the rebellion would have succeeded is an open question -- but by quitting, Boehner finally has some agency over how his career ends, if nothing else.
But there's no denying the fact that his hand was forced. No one has suggested, and few would believe, that Boehner started this Congress with the intention of resigning mid-way through the term. There were likely multiple factors that contributed to his surprise decision, but were it not for his far-right flank -- its obstinacy, its contempt for compromise, its insatiable appetite for confrontation, its ambitions for tearing him down -- Boehner would very likely have held onto his Speaker's gavel through January 2017.
Given this, Rep. Peter King's (R-N.Y.) assessment
seems more than fair.
The abrupt resignation of House Speaker John Boehner shows that “the crazies have taken over the party,” Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said Friday. “I think it signals the crazies have taken over the party, taken over to the party that you can remove a speaker of the House who’s second in line to be president, a constitutional officer in the middle of his term with no allegations of impropriety, a person who’s honest and doing his job. This has never happened before in our country,” King said in an interview on CNN. “He could have stayed on.”
In a separate interview, King added
that at "every stage" of his tenure as Speaker, Boehner "was undercut by people in his own party. And there’s 40 or 50 and that’s it. A small minority, but they were willing to hijack and blackmail the party.”
A co-founder of the conservative Freedom Caucus has a warning for any Republican hoping to replace outgoing Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio): No one will get the promotion without our blessing. Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.), a sharp critic of Boehner, said Friday that there are roughly 40 members of the group -- and another 20 conservatives outside of it -- who won't back any new Speaker who fails their litmus test for conservative purity. And the group's leadership endorsements, he warned, will be “a collective, corporate decision.”
Huelskamp added, while talking to The Hill, “We have enough votes in the House Freedom Caucus to prevent anybody from being Speaker. We will be a voting bloc."
The Freedom Caucus has even begun "pushing to slow down
" the process of choosing a new Speaker, "hoping to force a broader shake-up in House Republican leadership as the party tries to move forward."
It's still not altogether clear Freedom Caucus members understand
how Congress works -- they certainly didn't understand the limits Boehner faced as Speaker -- but their antics serve as a reminder of the drama yet to come.