This post has been updated.
Speaker John Boehner plans to resign from Congress in late October, he told members of his conference Friday morning in a closed door meeting, according to multiple reports emerging from the meeting room.
Boehner, 65, is second in line to the presidency, after Vice President Joe Biden. He was first elected to Congress in 1990. He has served as speaker since Republicans took control of the House in 2011.
Boehner was meeting with his conference to discuss plans to avert a government shutdown, looming next week. The speaker was under enormous pressure to keep the government open and satisfy conservative members of the conference who were refusing to vote for any bill that would provide funds for Planned Parenthood.
Boehner was expected to announce his resignation in a press conference after the Republican conference meeting ended later Friday morning, but apparently canceled the press conference.
He released a statement late Friday morning confirming that he will step down on Oct. 30.
“It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House,” he said in the statement. “It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.”
In a statement circulated to reporters, one of Boehner’s aides explained that the congressman would step down to avoid “prolonged leadership turmoil.” Conservative members of the Republican caucus have been calling for Boehner to step down as speaker.
Boehner aide’s full statement on impending resignation. Comes amid rumblings of conservative coup. pic.twitter.com/ZB3IY8xdbC
— Benjy Sarlin (@BenjySarlin) September 25, 2015
The revelation that Boehner had planned to step down previously but changed his plans after then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost in the GOP primary is remarkable but not surprising. Boehner has struggled through his speakership to contain the conservative rebellion that started with the Tea Party wave in the 2010 elections and catapulted him into the top House position.
His resignation suggests that he may not have believed he could have survived a new attempt to oust him as speaker. He was re-elected as speaker in January 2015, but received a record number of defections, with 25 Republican members either voting “present” or for another candidate.
Boehner’s resignation comes the morning after Pope Francis visited the Capitol to give a speech before Congress — the speaker had been inviting popes to meet with U.S. lawmakers for years. Politico reported that Boehner mentioned Thursday night that he had nothing left to accomplish after the pope’s visit, laughing off a question about plans to resign:
On Thursday evening as he left the Capitol, Boehner (R-Ohio) told two reporters — one from POLITICO and another from the Washington Post — that he had nothing left to accomplish after he brought Pope Francis to the Capitol. When asked if he was resigning, Boehner laughed before exiting into an awaiting SUV with his Capitol Police detail.
ABC News reported that the speaker’s decision was “inspired” by the pope.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) September 25, 2015
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Boehner’s nemesis in the Senate who has led the push to end funding for Planned Parenthood, on Friday commented on Boehneer’s leadership upon hearing the news.
Ted Cruz on Boehner resignation: “I have long called on Republican leadership to do something unusual, which is lead.”
— daveweigel (@daveweigel) September 25, 2015
Cruz on Boehner: “There is a frustration in this country and it is volcanic.”
— Rick Klein (@rickklein) September 25, 2015
The conservative Heritage Foundation on Friday quickly applauded Boehner’s decision to step down.
“Americans deserve a Congress that fights for opportunity for all and favoritism to none. Too often, Speaker Boehner has stood in the way. Today’s announcement is a sign that the voice of the American people is breaking through in Washington,” Heritage CEO Michael Needham said in a statement. “Now is the time for a principled, conservative leader to emerge. Heritage Action will continue fighting for conservative policy solutions and we look forward to working with the new leadership team.”
Rep. Peter King (R-NY) lamented that the “crazies” defeated Boehner.
Rep. Peter King on Boehner retirement: “To me, this is a victory for the crazies “
— John Bresnahan (@BresPolitico) September 25, 2015