Boehner's Resignation May Make A Government Shutdown Less Likely
SCOTT SIMON, HOST:
It was a shock-a-roo (ph), to use a technical term. John Boehner announced yesterday he will resign as speaker of the House and his seat in Congress from the state of Ohio at the end of October. He seemed ebullient when he faced reporters on Friday.
(SOUNDBITE OF PRESS CONFERENCE)
JOHN BOEHNER: (Singing) Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay, my, oh my, what a wonderful day.
SIMON: But will his successor have much to sing about or face many of the same problems that Speaker Boehner had with some of the most conservative members of the House of Representatives? NPR's congressional correspondent Susan Davis joins us now. Susan, thanks so much for being with us.
SUSAN DAVIS, BYLINE: Thanks for having me, Scott.
SIMON: Are the people in the House who were openly opposed to Speaker Boehner - well, do they feel they've won something?
DAVIS: Yes. I think that it is absolutely a short-term victory for these conservatives. And when we say these conservatives, I'd say it's probably in the orbit of 25 to 40 members, depending on the day and what they're angry about.
And these are a group of members that have opposed John Boehner for a long time. At least 25 of them opposed him being speaker when they held the election in January. And I think they feel like they have a victory today. These same group of conservatives were looking to push to maybe hold a vote on the floor next month that would have seeked to throw the speaker out of office. And John Boehner said today, he was confident that had that vote come to pass, he could have won. But the struggle that it would have exposed in the conference and what it would take for him to hold on the speakership was too damaging to the party and too damaging to the institution, so he opted to walk away.
SIMON: At the same time, does the speaker's decision make a government shutdown seem less likely next week?
DAVIS: Yes, because I think that the conservatives that were angling for both of these things - for the shutdown and for Boehner to leave - they were very interconnected. They were going to use the speaker's inability to defund Planned Parenthood in a spending bill as the reason by which they should force a vote to throw him out. Now, with Boehner leaving, I think that they will at least agree, in the short term, to a short-term bill that will keep the government funded, probably through the middle of December. But it means, much more likely, that we're going to be having this exact same conversation about how and whether to fund the government just a little bit closer to Christmas than it is, probably, to October.
SIMON: Are any of the members - the group of 25, 30, 40 that you mentioned - who openly wanted John Boehner out, going to step up and run for speaker now?
DAVIS: No. If anything, they acknowledge that they don't have the votes to win. One of those conservatives, Mick Mulvaney, is a Republican from South Carolina. He was asked that very question today - so who's going to step up and run? And he said, we don't have the support to win the speakership, but we have the votes to decide - help decide who that speaker should be. And I think what he was saying was, whoever wants to run for speaker - and Kevin McCarthy, the majority leader, is probably the early frontrunner. Although he has not announced his intention to run, he's expected to. That, you know, he's saying - look, they're going to have to pay attention to us. We want to be courted. We want to be paid attention to. We want the next speaker to feel like this group of core conservatives is where the solutions should come from and where the end goal - it has to be something that we can support. And again, that's going to be the same problem for the next speaker as it was for John Boehner. So how do you advance an agenda in a Republican-controlled Congress when you don't have 60 votes in the Senate, and you've got a Democrat in the White House very ready to veto what you send him?
SIMON: Susan, who's going to miss Speaker Boehner the most? I'm going to take a wild guess. Is it Nancy Pelosi?
DAVIS: It's funny. I've talked to a bunch of Democrats, who, they say - they think it's going to get worse. They think that Boehner leaving only emboldened the far-right of his party and that Democrats look at this warily and think, hey, we could be headed for even more confrontation. Nancy Pelosi talked reporters and she said she just thought that this was an example that Republicans don't want to govern. That it's an anti-governance party and that we might be headed for even more confrontation and volatility ahead.
SIMON: NPR's congressional correspondent, Susan Davis, thanks so much.
DAVIS: Thanks for having me.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.