US Representative John A Boehner, Republican of Ohio and the man who comes right after Vice President Joseph Biden in the line of succession for the presidency, announced this morning that he would resign from Congress at the end of October, the New York Times reports.
Mr Boehner first came to my attention when I worked as a reporter and photographer for a daily newspaper in west central Ohio, which is his district. I later came to know him as the man who stood with Senator Edward Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, in pushing President George W Bush’s great education reform package known as No Child Left Behind through Congress in 2001, just before the attacks on 9/11.
The overwhelming vote in favor of NCLB reflected bipartisanship, but Mr Boehner’s term as speaker has been spent, of late, in front of a divided Congress that is both polarized and paralyzed. Even his own party divides itself over several key issues every day.
President Barack Obama said he was surprised by the speaker’s resignation. He praised Mr Boehner as a “good man,” the Times said, and a “patriot.” Though they often disagreed, Mr Boehner had “always conducted himself with civility and courtesy with me,” the president was quoted as saying.
I also disagreed with Mr Boehner on several key issues, but he always struck me as a compassionate, caring individual. Sometimes, I think, especially in recent years following the advent of tea party fanatics, he has seemed to be the “only adult in the room.”
During Mr Obama’s presidency, he has sat in front of a House that has been part of a Congress that has left the American people disappointed with leadership. He certainly shares some of the responsibility for this, and it has been reported that a vote casting him out of the speaker’s role was upcoming in the House.
Mr Boehner, it has been an honor writing about you, and I hope you continue serving the better part of your conscience, wherever that may take you. The pettiness and selfishness shown by many politicians can’t be extinguished by one man, even the Speaker of the House.
Republicans will nominate and approve a new speaker as soon as the seat is vacant, and Mr Obama has promised to reach out to and work with the new speaker from the beginning.