While party politics have put House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) in the hot seat in recent months, his hasty resignation from Congress this morning was unexpected, suggests Steven S. Smith, PhD, a nationally recognized expert on congressional politics at Washington University in St. Louis.
“Speaker Boehner’s resignation is a complete surprise,” Smith said. “It would have been less surprising to hear early next year that he would not run for re-election, but resigning in mid-term is unexpected.”
Smith, the author of seven books on Congress, is the Kate M. Gregg Distinguished Professor of Social Sciences in Arts & Sciences and director of the Weidenbaum Center on the Economy, Government, and Public Policy at Washington University.
“Boehner has struggled to fashion legislative strategies that keep his party conference united,” Smith said.
“The party is remarkably cohesive on policy substance, but some House Republicans wanted a more confrontational strategy toward President Obama and the Senate and perhaps even more House Republicans were looking for a more vocal, more visible leader.”
Smith attributes Boehner’s problems to the Tea Party movement, which was stimulated by conservative discontent with the budget deficits and other issues in the last Bush administration.
“The movement generated the election of Republicans who promised ‘no more compromise’ and created steady pressure on all Republicans who feared losing primaries,” Smith said.
“Boehner, an experienced legislator whose skill in negotiating and willingness to accept compromise were established years ago, has not been able to pacify these Republicans,” he said. “Their insistence on budget brinksmanship has been unrelenting even after a series of efforts that bruised the party’s reputation.
“We don’t know if some personal consideration is involved. He may hope that the election of a new party leader will produce a truce over legislative strategy within his party conference,” Smith said.