House Speaker John Boehner: Morning Prayers Spurred Announcement He's Resigning
The Ohio Republican was alternately jolly – as if feeling liberated – and emotional in a Friday press conference confirming the speculation that had rocketed around Washington all morning.
“My, oh my, what a wonderful day!” Boehner crooned as he approached the microphone to face dozens of Capitol Hill reporters. “I used to sing that on my way to work every morning.”
Boehner, 65 and a devout Catholic, said he had planned to save the bombshell until his Nov. 17 birthday. But he suggested something about hosting Pope Francis’ historic and unprecedented visit to Congress moved him.
“Just yesterday, we witnessed the awesome sight of Pope Francis addressing the greatest legislative body in the world. And I hope that we will all heed his call to live by the Golden Rule. But last night, I started to think about this. And this morning, I woke up and said my prayers as I always do and I decided, you know, today’s the day I’m going to do this – as simple as that. That’s the code I’ve always lived by: If you do the right things for the right reasons, the right things will happen.”
Famously prone to tears, Boehner did choke up during his announcement, which was carried live on all the cable news networks in the middle of a busy news day when cameras were also chasing Pope Francis around Manhattan.
“I want to thank my family for putting up with this for all these years,” Boehner said. His voice cracking, he continued: “My poor girls, who are now 37 and 35, their first campaign photo was in July of 1981. And so they’ve had to endure all this. It’s one thing for me to have to endure it – I’ve got thick skin – but, you know, my girls and my wife have had to put up with a lot all these years.”
The congressional leader was reportedly was under significant pressure from the right wing of his party over whether to defund Planned Parenthood in a bill to keep the government open.
Boehner said of his accelerated departure from not only House leadership but from Congress altogether: “It’s become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution.”
Across town, President Obama told reporters that Boehner’s news took him by surprise.
“He is a patriot … and he cares about America,” Obama said.
Former President George W. Bush also issued a statement of praise – along with an invitation:
“John Boehner has done an excellent job for our country … I look forward to many rounds of golf with this good man.”