One day after a visit to Congress by the Pope, wherein he spoke to a joint session of the legislature, and, among other things, shook hands with the Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner, John Boehner handed in his resignation as Speaker of the House and as a member of Congress, effective October 31, 2015. He is currently 65 years old, a good time to retire.
Boehner had originally been the Republican minority leader in the House of Representatives and became Speaker of the House in 2011 when the Republicans achieved a majority in the House of Representatives. Over the past five years he has been categorized as one of the worst Speakers in the history of the United States, having no real control over his own party and having to get the support of Democrats in the House in order to pass a good deal of the legislation he espoused. He is also known for legislation he ignored and never brought up.
What has happened over the last decade or so is that The Tea Party has come into existence as a far right arm of the Republican Party. Many of them have been elected to Congress over the years. They and the Evangelicals have gotten together and formed the extreme right end of the Republican Party. Seemingly they control a good percentage of the Republican election funds which they will withhold from any candidate that does not follow the party line, their line of no compromise. Consequently they have a lot of power in the House of Representatives which they have continually exercised.
Speaker Boehner stated, when he was interviewed on television, after he had handed in his resignation, that these far right Republicans know that a large number of their goals are totally unrealistic, that they cannot be achieved, but they insist on them just the same.
There is an interesting note of irony here. The original Tea Partiers who operated during the late colonial period of our history were the merchants who ran the General Stores in the colonies of Boston, New York, and several other cities at the time. Among other items they sold tea, which was the national drink. The British East India Company brought the tea over and sold it to the colonial merchants. It was fairly expensive and heavily taxed by the British government. The colonial merchants did not appreciate the high price of the tea nor the tax so they bought much cheaper smuggled tea.
Shortly before the Revolutionary War the British East India Company was at the point of bankruptcy. Since many members of Parliament owned shares in this company they passed a law lowering both the cost of the tea and the taxes on it. The official price of this tea, including the taxes placed upon it, was now cheaper than the price of the smuggled tea. The men who dumped the crates of tea into the harbors of Boston and New York were the merchants who all had a large stock of smuggled tea in their warehouses. They rubbed red ocher over their bodies and performed the action after dark.
These were the patriots that the modern Tea Partiers have named themselves after. I sometimes get the feeling that the nomenclature is as apt today as it was in the late 18th Century.
John Boehner, as Speaker, has operated between their whims and sanity. He is not a Tea Partier. He has been forced at times to get Democratic support for some of his bills so he could get them passed. His job as Speaker has been a very difficult and frustrating one. How do you lead a group that is essentially marching backwards, sometimes in several different directions at the same time and has no real understanding of government? They have shut down the government at the cost of many millions of dollars. They have passed a bill doing away with Affordable Health Care over fifty times that never even once reached the Senate. Where they have been successful they have passed legislation that has massively increased unemployment during a time of recession, one example would be the sequester law, which is supposed to be an economizing measure, but that is basically choking this nation.
The Republicans were threatening to shut the government down again. The first shut-down was about getting rid of Affordable Health Care; this time it was over the issue of continuing the funding of Planned Parenthood, accusing them of being a national facility for committing abortions. Even though no federal funds can be used for abortions by any group the Republicans are pushing the fact that since this organization performs abortions it should not be funded. Planned Parenthood is a women’s and to some extent male medical facility. Many people who cannot afford medical care receive that there free or for a payment of what they can afford. Abortions are about 3% of what they do for the poorer women of the United States. Cancelling this organization by defunding it would strike a heavy blow against the poor and needy of the country.
The Republicans present Planned Parenthood as an abortion clinic, period. It is over this issue that the far right of the Republican Party and the Evangelicals in Congress want to shut down the Federal Government.
In fact Carley Fiorina has made an exaggerated and fabricated image of an abortion the cornerstone of her 2016 presidential campaign. She has sent out robocalls using this message as an appeal and request for funds. She describes a living born fetus kicking its legs as Planned Parenthood sells its brain for medical research. The woman, who gave birth to this fetus which was still-born denounced Fiorina for misusing her dead child as an example of a Planned Parenthood action. Planned Parenthood had nothing to do with the false image that Fiorina supposedly based her statement upon. It was a blatant fabrication, a lie, and she used the child without getting permission from the mother who has protested over this act.
Interestingly the Republicans keep looking to find Planned Parenthood guilty of breaking the law. There have been four Congressional investigations by a Standing Committee in Congress. None of them have found any evidence of illegal activity. As a result of all this Congressional bashing more of the general public have come to support Planned Parenthood.
With the October 31 resignation of John Boehner this issue of closing down the government of the United States has gone away, at least until December of 2015. A short term funding bill has gone through the Senate, espoused by the Republican Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell, and supported by the Democrats and enough Republicans to end a filibuster by Senator Ted Cruz. Obviously there can be no filibuster in the House of Representatives and the bill was later brought up there by an unpressured Speaker and passed by the Democrats with a small number of Republicans voting for it. The issue will not come up again until December when the new Speaker of the House of Representatives will have to again deal with this issue of funding the government. Will the issue of Planned Parenthood come up again? Will the Republicans find another excuse to close down the government? After all the Tea Party tends to find the entire National Government repressive. They seem to want to hurt it.
By resigning as Speaker John Boehner, in a manner of speaking, has held up his middle finger to the far right in his party. He will be in power for a short period of time. The Tea Partiers can no longer pressure him to do anything. There will be no immediate government shutdown. Ted Cruz, who is very brave leading other people to take risks will be ineffective here. The far right Republicans do not have a majority within their own party in the House. They cannot elect one of their own as the new Speaker. And the election for a new Speaker will not take place until November 1, the day after John Boehner is no longer Speaker of the House.
The way it looks at present is that the next Speaker will be Kevin McCarthy, the current majority leader. He was first elected to the House in 2008, became majority leader in 2014 when Eric Cantor lost the election to a far right member of the Tea Party. Politically McCarthy comes from an overwhelming Republican District in Bakersfield, California. While not a Tea Party member he has signed a pledge sponsored by Americans for Prosperity promising not to vote against any climate change legislation that would raise taxes on affected companies. McCarthy is pro-life. He has voted against Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care. During his eight years in the House there are no real bills he has originated. Where does he stand in relation to the Tea Party? If he’s elected we’ll find out in November of this year.
A strange thing about Kevin McCarthy is that he occasionally has a problem in a public speech expressing a coherent sentence. He also mispronounces words adding letters to them and his sentences sometimes become a flow of words that are meaningless to everyone, possibly except for himself. In addition from what he’s said he feels that the House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, always looks at him contemptibly. Many members of the far right feel he is too liberal to be their Speaker.
Recently [n a moment of exultation Kevin McCarthy, while being interviewed on Fox News, without being asked, proudly stated that Hillary Clinton’s popularity numbers had been very high but after testifying four times before a Standing Committee on Benghazi her popularity dropped considerably. He implied strongly and happily that these appearances lowered her popularity significantly. There is also a fifth Benghazi hearing coming up since the prior four have not been able to place any blame on her. He confirmed what the Democrats had been saying since they started that these hearings are politically motivated. Of course McCarthy tried to step back from what he said a day or two afterward.
In one sense this is very sad because these four hearings are estimated to have cost the American taxpayers about four million dollars. This is a strange way for a political party that prides itself upon reducing government spending to spend four million dollars to achieve a so-called political point. If he is elected Speaker of the House of Representatives it should be interesting if not strange. His tenure may be very short.
John Boehner is currently a free agent. No one can bring any pressure upon him. He has stated that there will be no government shut down. If he wished to do so he could deal with the problem of immigration that this country has been facing and ignoring for a number of years. There are other legislative items that need to be dealt with. He would have the Democratic votes and probably enough Republican votes to pass almost any bill. If he does this what the Senate will do is an open question, but McConnell might very well go along with him. McConnell has stated that the Republican majority will show the country that it can govern.
For the first time since his election as Speaker of the House of Representatives John Boehner is a free agent. No one can now bring pressure or make demands on him. He has about a month left to serve in this position and then he is retired from the House. At the age of 65 he can go back to Ohio and actually retire if he so desires since he currently is estimated as having a net worth of about five million dollars and a generous retirement program from Congress, having served in the House since 1991, 24 years.
Instead, if he so desires, he can serve one or another large corporation as a lobbyist and earn additional millions of dollars. Eric Cantor, when he lost the 2014 election to a more reactionary Tea Partier and was no longer Majority Leader of the Republican’s in the House, took a highly lucrative position earning over a million dollars a year. Boehner can do the same thing. The problem here is that once he takes the job he has to follow orders and he is lobbying for the interests of a large corporation. This is not necessarily a good thing; it somehow resembles selling your soul for money.
On the other hand John Boehner can offer his services to a low dollar entity like the Catholic Bishops or to a people oriented enterprise like the movement to end violence against women. There are many such organizations that would love to have his help as a Washington lobbyist. He could get a great deal of fulfillment working for one or even several of these.
Besides keeping the government functioning how does Boehner’s retirement affect the House of Representatives? First off many House Tea Partiers consider it a victory for themselves because he was never one of them. He has occasionally played golf with President Obama, who they consider the enemy. But the new Speaker will not be a Tea Partier; they don’t have enough votes for that. Will they be able to control the new Speaker? Will they be able to shut the government down in December of this year? Presumably the Congressional Tea Partiers in the Senate would also like to get rid of Mitch McConnell, force him to resign from the Senate. Among some conservatives there is a “Ditch Mitch” campaign. Will they be able to do any of this? If they were somehow to succeed in carrying out their nefarious agenda what will happen? Those are interesting questions.
In my estimation if they were to succeed in any of this, particularly in a Presidential Election year they would probably discredit themselves, particularly the House of Representatives, before the voting public and could conceivably, even with gerrymandered voting districts and some suppressions of the vote, end up with a Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. John Boehner may have started a roller-coaster going with ever-increasing speed downhill for the Tea Party. We will see where it ends.