By Robert A. Vella
A day after his private meeting with Pope Francis, and amid a growing rebellion within his own Republican caucus, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced today that he will resign both his leadership position and his seat from Ohio’s 8th congressional district at the end of October.
Boehner, a Catholic, has been under increasing pressure from right-wing conservatives over the last four years to force a government shutdown in order to extract concessions from Democrats favorable to the extremist Tea Party agenda. The last shutdown in 2013 was politically damaging to the Republican brand which Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hoped not to repeat. The current threat to shutdown the federal government is being pushed by Christian fundamentalists who are attempting to defund the nonprofit healthcare organization Planned Parenthood which provides reproductive and other medical services for women.
The surprising announcement by Boehner guarantees a rough battle ahead in the Republican-controlled House to select a new Speaker. It is likely that the GOP establishment will have a more difficult task this time in holding off a Tea Party insurgency into its leadership. Perhaps, that was the main reason for Boehner’s decision. Whether his meeting with the Pope played any role is open to speculation.