Boehner speaks after resignation stunner

Published: Sep. 25, 2015 at 1:46 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 25, 2015 at 7:39 PM EDT
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John Boehner will resign as House Speaker and his seat on Congress at the end of October, a Boehner aide told FOX19 NOW Friday.

"I woke up this morning, said my prayers as I always do and said 'today's the day,'" Boehner said during his 1 p.m. press conference. "I decided when I was elected (as Speaker) in 2010, serving two terms would be plenty. But in last June when the majority leader lost the election, frankly, I didn't think it was right to end it at the end of last year."

[Mobile users can stream the press conference here]

"My mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly, and more accountable government," Boehner tweeted a few hours later. "Over the last five years, our majority has advanced conservative reforms that will help our children and their children.  I am proud of what we have accomplished.

"The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love," his lengthy tweet reads. "It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House.  It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.  To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on October 30.

"Today, my heart is full with gratitude for my family, my colleagues, and the people of Ohio's Eighth District.  God bless this great country that has given me - the son of a bar owner from Cincinnati - the chance to serve."

Earlier Friday, the stunning announcement came from one of Boehner's aides:

"Speaker Boehner believes that the first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution and, as we saw yesterday with the Holy Father, it is the one thing that unites and inspires us all," the aide said.

"The Speaker's plan was to serve only through the end of last year.  Leader Cantor's loss in his primary changed that calculation.  The Speaker believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution.

"He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his Speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30."

Boehner has held the position since Jan. 5, 2011, and was House Minority Leader for five years prior to that. He has been the U.S. Representative from Ohio's 8th District since 2001.

Reaction from his political allies and at least one political foe was swift and full of praise:

"I thank @SpeakerBoehner for his service to Ohio and the nation," tweeted Congressman Brad Wenstrup R-Columbia Tusculum. "I wish him and Debbie the very best. He is a man with deep respect for our institutions and governance, enduring a thankless job in service to our country. The House will soon consider new leadership & I'm committed to a direction that continues to embrace limited government & free enterprise."

"The son of a barkeeper, John Boehner rose to one of the most powerful positions in the nation," said Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, in a prepared statement. "While we have not always agreed on many issues, I know that he is a good, decent man who has served our nation honorably. Connie and I send our best wishes to the Boehner family."

Closer to home, Boehner's closest friends and allies said he served the country and the Tri-State well.

"West Chester is blessed to have had a sitting speaker of the house," said George Lang, trustee president in the township where Boehner lives and one of his neighbors in the gated Wetherington subdivision off Interstate 75.

"John told me one time being speaker was like herding cats, trying to get everyone at one time in one direction was very difficult."

The news comes just one day after Boehner, a former altar boy who attended Moeller High School and Xavier University, wept tears of joy as he sat behind Pope Francis giving a historic address in a joint meeting of Congress.

"What a way for John to go out. I know how much his religion means to him," Lang said."He tried for over 20 years to get the pope to speak to Congress. I know it must be a really good feeling for John to leave under that circumstance.

Lang praised Boehner for sticking to his guns and refusing earmarks.

"He refused to send pork back to his district and caught a lot of crap from his constituents, but he stood on a principal and refused to capitulate," Lang said. "At the time, he was probably the one in Congress that took that stand and today it's the law of the land."

Hamilton County Republican Party Chairman Alex Triantafilou said the announcement caught him by surprise.

"I am surprised but grateful for Speaker Boehner's term," he said. "He was very helpful to southwest Ohio and, specifically, to me, so I am very grateful to him. His legacy will be he grew our majority in the House of Representatives. We have the largest majority we've had in decades that we've had as Republicans, so I wish him well."

One of his mentors and the former Butler County Republican Party Chairman, Carlos Todd, was elected township trustee at the same time as Boehner, back in in the early 1980s.

"I think John's an outstanding person. I know he's shown a lot, a lot of courage in these last few years putting up all the riff raff that's happening in Washington," Todd said. "But I think John has had a lot of pressure on him the last few years.I think one of his last objectives was to get the Pope to Washington and he got it. I don't know if the Pope said something in one of his speeches or to him personally, but it's probably time to live a different life and pull out and let other people have it."

Boehner's supporters said they didn't think an effort from one House conservative to oust him, Rep. Mark Meadows, R-North Carolina, would have resulted in Boehner losing his speakership.

"I think he's been through these fights before on these issues so I can't imagine that's what it is," Triantafilou said. "I think with a presidential election coming up you've got plenty of time to pick a replacement for him and someone to lead us into the future. I think the timing is not that unusual, frankly. It probably makes a little bit of sense."

Chris Wunnenberg, who was just elected central committee chairman of the Butler County Republican Party, said the timing of the announcement, which had been rumored, came as a "complete shock."

"Now that John decided to take himself out as being an issue of the Republican Party, it shows his love of the caucus and his desire to not be the issue, recognizing that we have a whole lot of other things to decide coming up here in 2016 and he didn't want John Boehner as the Speaker of the House to be the issue.

"I certainly think that the Pope's visit very much affected him, very, very much. He is a very religious person and it very much reinforced his belief that we've got things in this country that we've got to fix. I think that he was thinking that as much as anything else. That's just my opinion."

While Boehner's future plans haven't been divulged, some locals hope he spends more at home.

"I think he's a great guy. He comes in here and he's just down to earth," said Emily Profitt, one of the owners of The Meadows, a bar and restaurant off Yankee Road at Lafayette Avenue in Middletown. "He talks to everybody. He's nice to everybody. He's a very friendly guy. You would never know he was in Congress.  He doesn't come in that much anymore. He is too busy."

FOX19 NOW will continue to follow and update this story on air and online.

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