House Speaker John Boehner, who announced of Friday he will be stepping down and resigning from Congress on October 30, said his more conservative opponents are not being realistic about how things are accomplished in Washington.
The tea party wing of the party has had its sights set on Boehner for quite some time, and he was only narrowly re-elected speaker in 2013. Conservative members have reportedly been plotting to force him to step down amid the debate over defunding Planned Parenthood.
Appearing Sunday on "Face the Nation,"
Boehner said he had always intended to step down at year's end anyway, and said he would have gotten the overwhelming majority of votes had he been challenged.
But he said the didn't want to make fellow Republicans "walk the plank" with voters back home because their constituents felt they weren't being aggressive enough.
He ticked off a list of accomplishments made under his leadership, including stopping a tax increase on most Americans and entitlement reforms.
"All done over the last four-and-half years with a Democrat president, all voted against by my most conservative members because it wasn't good enough," Boehner said. "Really? This is the part that I really don't understand."
The founders set up a system of government that allowed the president to make a decision after the House and Senate had voted, Boehner said, because they didn't want a parliamentary system where changes were made too quickly.
"And so change comes slowly," he said. "And, obviously, too slowly for some."
Asked if the tea party wing was being unrealistic in its expectations, Boehner emphatically replied, "Absolutely, they're not realistic!
"Our system of government is not about Hail Mary passes," Boehner said. "It's the Woody Hayes school of football: three yards and a cloud of dust, three yards and a cloud of dust. It's a slow methodical process."
Boehner admitted he was a rebel himself when he entered Congress in 1991, but said his goal was to shake up the House of Representatives, not the Republican Party.
Boehner announced his resignation one day after hosting Pope Francis at an address to a join session of Congress — something Boehner has been pushing for since the mid-1990s. He said meeting the pope did not spur his decision, but it "helped clear the picture."
As for what he wants said about him when his portrait is unveiled in Statuary Hall, Boehner said simply, "He was a good man. That's all."
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