House Speaker John Boehner had just a short initial comment to reporters this morning after the news came out about his decision to leave the House
and his gavel behind: "It's a wonderful day."
The media had believed Boehner would issue a statement at the Capitol, at a bank of microphones set up in front of a grouping of American flags, and that the statement would follow Pope Francis' address to the United Nations.
Instead, Boehner made the quick comment
while walking through a crowd of reporters who were gathered to interview him.
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His comment came about a half-hour before Boehner's office issued an official statement to explain the reasons for his decision, in which he explained that he decided to step down because "prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution."
Boehner's announcement came just one day after one of the highest points in his political career, when he sat behind Pope Francis and wiped away tears as he heard the pontiff's historic address to a joint session of Congress.
But despite the Pope's message of unity Thursday, Boehner is stepping down to the applause of conservatives who have complained that he was not doing enough as speaker to stop liberal agenda items such as Obamacare and funding for Planned Parenthood, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who also stepped down amid complaints from his own party in 1998, said Friday he understands that decision.
"I think it probably happened because John had been thinking about it," Gingrich told Fox News' "America's Newsroom" host Bill Hemmer, and that the timing of the Pope's visit to the United States may have something to do with the decision.
"John's a very devout Catholic," said Gingrich. "This is something he always wanted to see happen. Yesterday, in many ways is the high point of his speakership. In that sense I think it kind of makes sense to say I want to go out with something that he will treasure the rest of his life."
Gingrich compared Boehner's decision to the one he made himself in 1998.
"I think in my case, and to some extent John's case, what happens is part of your party gets, has demands that are not reachable, and they view your failure to reach them as a sign they need somebody new who somehow magically will get what they want," said Gingrich.
"In both of our cases a block grew up that basically said, you know, we want somebody who will do exactly what we want."
Gingrich said in his own case, his opponents did not get what they wanted, but at least they felt glad to have somebody new, but still, "there are things you can't do if you don't have the votes."
Boehner's resignation will bring an election for the speaker's seat, said Gingrich, and the group of 20 or so people who opposed him "is not a majority in the conference," even if it is a "big enough block to cause a lot of trouble."
"We'll see who wins the elections and see how the votes get counted," said Gingrich. "It is very hard to put together a majority and very hard to govern with a majority, particularly with a president of the opposite party. I suspect John Boehner got worn out by constant attacks and constant complications and in the sense it was unmanageable."
Gingrich continued that one of the lessons he learned when he stepped down was that with a new majority leader, "things sort themselves out, and life goes on. That is part of the joy of a society under the rule of law, is that you have enormous resilience."
By the time Boehner leaves at the end of October, a new speaker will have been picked, said Gingrich, and he believes House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., will be the "prohibitive favorite to become speaker," and leadership elections will occur, during which people will have to decide their own ambitions.
"As somebody who built a majority which took years, [it's] very hard to put together an absolute majority," said Gingrich.
But one potential successor, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan, said that he is not interested in running to succeed Boehner, reports The Hill.
Ryan, who was a Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012 under nominee Mitt Romney and currently chairs the powerful House Ways and Means Committee, simply said he isn't running "because I don't want to be speaker."
He is reportedly close with McCarthy, but many House Republicans have openly said they want him to seek the speaker's seat. But his colleagues have also questioned whether he'd want the job because he has a young family and the position involves a great deal of fundraising and travel.
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