House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) explained his surprise decision to step down as a move to stabilize a congressional GOP rocked by revolts over his leadership. However, already, Republican lawmakers have expressed skepticism that his resignation will really cure what ails the House Republicans.
“To be perfectly honest with you, the results we get are probably going to be the same thing, it’s just going to be a different face,” Rep. Lynn Westmoreland (R-GA) told reporters. “The natives are restless, and they want to see something change. So how much change somebody can bring about, we’ll see.”
Boehner’s resignation came as the capital was bracing for a possible government shutdown over the hardline stance taken by conservative lawmakers on funding Planned Parenthood. Boehner’s supporters feared that if he cut a deal with Democrats to keep the government open that conservative House members would attempt to overthrow him. Boehner, who claimed he was initially planning to make his resignation announcement in November (after delaying it a year), hoped to defuse the situation.
“It had become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution,” Boehner said in a press conference Friday.
Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) — the presumed frontrunner for his successor — has a warmer relationship with Tea Party lawmakers, having embraced their pet causes like shutting down the Export-Import Bank. But the dynamics driving their frustration will remain the same after Boehner’s departure. No matter how badly conservatives want to repeal Obamacare, defund Planned Parenthood or block the Iran deal, the reality of a Democratic filibuster in the Senate and presidential veto in the White House will only get them so far.
“We are going to have Obama as President, we are going to have Pelosi and Reid as minority leaders, and we have McConnell who continues to fail to lift the filibuster, so we’re not going to get our agenda done as it comes out of the House,” Rep. Bill Flores (R TX) told reporters Friday. “And you’re going to have a new Speaker, who is going to have to wonder if he or she is the next person to lose their head.”
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) — a co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus, which had been the epicenter of many of Boehner’s problems — suggested that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) may need to be the next GOP leader on the chopping block, particularly for his unwillingness to get rid of the Senate filibuster.
“We made a lot of promises to the American people, that if we took the Senate, that we would do certain things and those things have not been accomplished,” Salmon said in an interview with reporters. “A lot of the problems we are engaged in is because the Senate doesn’t take any action on anything and there’s nothing that any presidential candidate on our side says that will ever be realized as long as the modern-day filibuster is enacted in the way it is today.”
Outside observers have argued the GOP’s turmoil is the result of over-promising to the base what Republican lawmakers can deliver. Yet it is unclear whether lawmakers will be able to come to terms with that argument, or whether they will continue to place the blame on their leaders.
“We all caught blame during August for things not making it to the president’s desk, and I think the American people are justified at looking at us and saying we want to see more action,” Rep. Marsha Blackburn said (R-TN). “The will of the body to body has to be, we’re going to have to get things done, and the leadership has to work that through.”
Other Republicans fret that Boehner’s resignation amounted to giving in to the “crazies” and that it will backfire.
“I think it’s like throwing raw meat to some of these people. They’re not going to see it as a gesture of peace, they’re just going to look for more,” Peter King (R-NY) said on CNN. “It’s a signal that the crazies have taken over the party.”