Iowa reaction to John Boehner stepping down as House speaker (updated)

U.S. House Speaker John Boehner surprised most politics-watchers yesterday by announcing that he will step down as speaker and retire from Congress at the end of October. As Jennifer Steinhauer noted in the New York Times, Boehner’s move “lessened the chance of a government shutdown because Republican leaders joined by Democrats will almost certainly go forward with a short-term funding measure to keep the government operating [after September 30], and the speaker will no longer be deterred by those who threatened his job.” Boehner was a frequent target of right-wing talk radio hosts and occasionally at war with the most conservative House Republicans, who now insist on ending all federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Remarkably, a nationwide NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released yesterday indicated that 72 percent of Republican primary voters are dissatisfied with the work of Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, 44 percent are “very” dissatisfied, and 36 percent want Boehner and McConnell replaced immediately.

I sought comment from all four Iowans in the House on Boehner stepping down and asked the three Republicans whether they would be inclined to support House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy as the next speaker. McCarthy has been the front-runner for the job ever since Boehner’s heir apparent, Eric Cantor, lost his GOP primary last year. Other credible candidates for House speaker include Steve Scalise, Jim Jordan, and Jeb Hensarling; Josh Israel profiled them and McCarthy for Think Progress.

I enclose below statements provided by Republicans Rod Blum (IA-01), David Young (IA-03), and Steve King (IA-04), and well as reaction from Democratic Representative Dave Loebsack (IA-02). None of the Republicans directly answered the question about supporting McCarthy. Neither King nor Blum mentioned that they were among the 25 House Republicans who did not vote to re-elect Boehner as speaker in January.

I also included former Representative Tom Latham’s reaction to U.S. Senator Marco Rubio’s comments about Boehner stepping down. Rubio drew cheers from the audience at the Values Voters Summit in Washington when he told them the news, adding, “The time has come to turn the page. The time has come to turn the page and allow a new generation of leadership in this country.” Latham and Boehner were smoking buddies and close friends during Latham’s 20-year career in the House.

UPDATE: Added below excerpts from King’s guest column, “What We Need in Our Next Speaker of the House,” published in the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal on September 28. This sentence is ironic: “And legislation should pass or fail on the floor of Congress on its merits instead of being blocked in backroom deals because of personal politics.” Surely King knows that the Senate’s bipartisan immigration reform bill would have passed the House easily (mostly with Democratic votes), had it ever been brought to the floor. King and his allies successfully pressured Boehner not to put that bill to a vote of the full House.

Facebook status update posted by Representative Rod Blum, September 25:

Serving in Congress means countless hours away from family and loved ones, and I thank Speaker Boehner for his service and for the sacrifices he and his family have made over the last 24 years. I wish him many happy years with his family as he opens a new chapter in his life.

Statement released by Representative David Young, September 25:

Washington D.C. – Iowa Congressman David Young (IA-03) had the following statement regarding U.S. House Speaker John Boehner’s plans to resign at the end of October:

“I applaud John Boehner’s service to his district and this country. Soon, we will elect a new Speaker of the House. I look forward to sitting down with those who may be running for that position, or any other leadership position, to understand their priorities and advocate for the concerns of Iowa’s 3rd Congressional District and this nation.”

Statement released by Representative Steve King, September 25:

King Calls for Open and Deliberate Process for Speaker Race

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Steve King released the following statement to express his call for open dialogue and a deliberate process to elect a new Speaker of the House Representatives:

“The House of Representatives is now tasked with electing a new Speaker,” said King. “This is both a great opportunity and responsibility. Before electing a new Speaker of the House, Members need to hear from all candidates on their strategy for dealing with an obstinate President, vision for restoring the soul of America and ideas on adhering to regular order.

To best facilitate an open process, I encourage Members to engage all candidates for Speaker on their proposed strategy and tactics in confronting the many challenges our Conference faces. There is no immediate rush to elect a new Speaker and this provides all of us an opportunity to weigh the decision carefully. I want to know from each candidate how they are going to restore Article I Constitutional authority to Congress and how they plan to defund Planned Parenthood, the Iran deal, the President’s DACA and DAPA, and ObamaCare. Questions like these deserve answers and an open dialogue will help us get them. We need a Speaker who can offer a bold vision that inspires our Conference as well as the American people we represent, and I look forward to a fresh strategy and new beginning.”

Statement from Representative Dave Loebsack, September 25:

Washington, D.C. – Congressman Dave Loebsack released the following statement today after the Speaker of the House, John Boehner, announced he will resign at the end of the month.

“I commend Speaker Boehner for his service to the House of Representatives and to our nation. While I have not always agreed with him, I understand that the challenges of leading a fractured and ideological party must have been extremely difficult. I wish him the best as he moves on to the next phase of his life.

“Today’s news also gives the Republican Party an opportunity to pick a leader who has a history of working across the aisle with Democrats to move our nation forward. It is my hope that the Republican Party will elect a Speaker who is able to stop the partisan games that have ruled Washington for far too long and start working for the American people. I stand ready to work with the new Speaker, along with anyone from either side of the aisle, to solve the critical problems facing our nation.”

Brett LoGiurato quoted former Representative Tom Latham in this piece for Business Insider:

Former Rep. Tom Latham, an Iowa Republican, who retired from Congress after last year’s mid-term elections, had dinner with Boehner and his family Thursday night. He was also perturbed by Rubio seeming to “revel” in telling the audience that Boehner was resigning.

“I don’t think it’s appropriate. Speaker Boehner has done, in my mind, an outstanding job dealing with an impossible situation,” Latham said. “Whoever’s going to be the next speaker is going to have to deal with the same dynamics. So I think that’s very unfortunate.”

He added, “To me, that’s not appropriate, when someone has just announced that they’re going to be retiring for the good of the institution, to make any statement that would not be positive toward what he’s done.”

UPDATE: From  King’s guest column, “What We Need in Our Next Speaker of the House,” published in the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal on September 28.

This country faces multiple constitutional crises caused by a lawless president who claims the power to ignore immigration laws, ratify treaties, write environmental legislation, and rewrite health care laws. […]

Our Article I constitutional authority has been sacrificed for too long.

In the face of these cracks in the constitutional foundation of the country, Congress still has the power of the purse and impeachment. However, Republican leadership has emphatically declared that these tools cannot be used. This unilateral disarmament has paralyzed Congress and emboldened lawlessness. […]

Candidates for speaker must tell members and the public how they plan to rebuild the House and restore Congress as an effective check on the executive and the judiciary. Also, we need to hear their stance on how the House will be run.

Each member is elected to serve his or her constituents, and no member’s constituents deserve more representation than any others. We need a House of Representatives where voting one’s conscience is applauded instead of punished. And legislation should pass or fail on the floor of Congress on its merits instead of being blocked in backroom deals because of personal politics.

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