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In the midst of hammering out a plan to avert a federal government shutdown and a day after Pope Francis’ historic address to a joint meeting of Congress, Republican House Speaker John A. Boehner announced Friday that he is retiring at the end of October.
The announcement came as Boehner, who had planned to step down at the end of last year, was trying to prevent the federal government from funding Planned Parenthood without leading to a shutdown next week.
But Tea Party Republicans questioned whether Boehner had the wherewithal to fight President Barack Obama over federal funding for Planned Parenthood without tying it to a shutdown. The White House warned Thursday that Obama vowed to veto any bill to continue funding the government if it removes federal dollars for Planned Parenthood.
And an aide for the beleaguered speaker told news outlets that Boehner has been under pressure from Tea Party conservatives, who have accused him of failing to fight the Obama administration on issues important to the GOP, chiefly Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood was thrust into controversy this spring when a conservative group released doctored videos of workers allegedly selling fetal body parts, which is prohibited under federal law.
But the Washington Post reports that Boehner also refused to link Planned Parenthood funding to passage of the federal spending plan because he wanted to avoid a repeat of 2013, when the government had a partial shutdown over funding for the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare.
Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and his leadership team have for some time been urging lawmakers to consider alternatives to using a must-pass government-wide funding bill as a means to carry the battle against Planned Parenthood to President Barack Obama. They’ve met resistance from tea party Republicans and outside groups that advocated for the 2013 partial government shutdown over implementation of Obama’s health care law.
His resignation came a day after the Pope delivered a moving speech before Congress about unity, writes Politico:
“The Speaker believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.”
Now without worrying about blow-back from Tea Party conservatives, Boehner will likely advocate for a spending plan that supports funding Planned Parenthood and keeping the federal government running.
Such a measure would be good news for the Obama administration, which had been working with Boehner to develop a fiscal agreement before next week’s deadline. The administration also received a nod from the Senate on Thursday.
The Senate defeated Republican efforts to use a funding extension bill to cut off money to Planned Parenthood, clearing the way for a version without that provision that extends all previous funding through Dec. 11.
Still, Boehner’s resignation appeared to be a rallying call for Tea Party conservatives, like Florida Senator and Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio.
Via NBC News:
News of Boehner’s resignation was vigorously cheered at a gathering of social conservatives just miles from the Capitol in Washington D.C. Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio announced the news and told the crowd that “the time has come to turn the page and allow a new generation of leadership in this country.”
For its part, Planned Parenthood expressed concern about future Republican house leadership in an email statement to NewsOne. (U.S. Representative Kevin McCarthy, 50, of California, is the leading contender to replace Boehner as speaker, reports say.)
“It looks like leadership in the House may go from bad to worse,” the statement reads. “While John Boehner was never a champion of women’s health in this country, even he recognized that defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t what the American people wanted. The extreme flank of this Congress has become so obsessed with ending women’s access to basic health care that they’ll pursue it at all costs — no matter how many Americans disagree, and how many women they hurt as a result.”
On Friday, President Obama said at a White House news conference that the resignation took him by surprise.
“I took the time prior to this press conference to call John directly and talk to him,” he said during a live news conference. “He is a good man. He is a patriot and cares deeply about the House and his constituents.”
Read Boehner’s statement here.
Watch Roland Martin and the NewsOne Now Panel discuss Speaker Boehner’s resignation and if this move will help avert a government shutdown in the video clip below.
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