Saturday, September 26, 2015

The Resignation of John Boehner and the Election for Speaker

On Friday, September 25, 2015, the Speaker of the House John Boehner (R) announced he will relinquish his Speakership and retire from Congress, effective October 30, 2015.

John Boehner came by his Republican credentials honestly. He was born in Reading, Ohio (north of Cincinnati), the second of twelve children. The family lived in a two bedroom house where the parents slept on a pull-out sofa in the living room. As a boy of eight he started working in his father's bar, a business started by his grandfather in 1938.

John attended Xavier University in Cincinnati, supporting himself with several jobs. He was the first of his family to attend college. He graduated college in 1977 and took a job with a plastics packing company, steadily rising to president of the firm. He did not resign until after he was elected to Congress.

He has lived in Southwest Ohio all his life (and Washington DC since 1991, of course); most of his siblings live in the area still and are working in blue collar jobs.

Boehner entered politics in 1981, serving three years as a Trustee of Union Township, followed by five years in the Ohio legislature. He was elected to the House in 1990 from the Ohio 8th Congressional District, which starts on the northern outskirts of Cincinnati and runs along the Indiana border and juts east to include Springfield.

Boehner was one of the engineers of Newt Gingrich's Contract with America, which sparked the heightened partisan divide we have seen in Congress the last 20 years. Following Tom DeLay's (R Texas) resignation as Republican House leader (DeLay was indicted for money laundering and campaign finance violations) Boehner was elected leader of the Republican Party in the House in 2006 and Speaker of the House in 2011. He was most recently elected to his House seat last November.

John Boehner has talked the talk and walked the walk for Republicans. They will miss him... even if we won't miss the partisan divisive era he helped spark and presided over. For now, it looks like the divisiveness may ratchet up another notch with his departure.

In his announcement Boehner said that he had planned to retire at the end of the year, but that he decided impulsively after the Pope's address to Congress to move up his departure. He says he did it to "protect the institution," apparently because Tea Party Republicans were plotting another palace coup. It shows how badly the Republicans are in disarray, says Nancy Pelosi.

The Speaker of the House is the presiding officer of the House of Representatives, and second in line for the Presidency after the vice-President. Crucially, the Speaker decides which legislation is assigned to which committee, and which legislation will be brought to the floor for a vote. The Speaker also coordinates the legislative agenda with leaders of the House and the Senate and the President. He or she swears in members of the House,  keeps order in the chamber, recognizing members to speak on the House floor, and making rulings about House procedures. The Speaker gets to appoint committee members, including a majority of members to the Rules Committee.

A new Speaker will now have to be elected, and it might be a battle. Each of the 435 members in the House will get a vote. The front runner is currently the Republican majority leader in the House, Kevin McCarthy from California. He's no shoo-in, says Breitbart. The most conservative wing of the party wants one of its own, potentially setting up a leadership fight.

In order to be elected, the next Speaker will require 218 votes. There are 247 Republicans and 188 Democrats in the House, so the next speaker will certainly be a Republican (although Nancy Pelosi will be offered up as a nominee by the Democrats). With a pitched battle for the speakership, potentially Democratic votes will play a role.  In 1856 it took two months and 133 ballots to elect Nathaniel Banks as Speaker.  It might be interesting.

Nathaniel Banks 1856
first elected Republican House Speaker

Follow me on Twitter @RolandNikles