See more of our coverage on recent attacks against Planned Parenthood here.
Shocking political observers and his congressional colleagues, Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announced Friday that he will resign both his speakership and his House seat at the end of October.
Before Friday, it looked likely that Boehner would be forced by his right-wing caucus to participate in shutting down the government over Planned Parenthood funding.
Boehner is now “certain to push through a government-funding bill next week that funds Planned Parenthood and keeps the government open,” Politico reports.
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The Washington Post reports that House Republicans, including the right-wing Freedom Caucus, are in agreement to pass a “clean” temporary spending bill funding both the government and Planned Parenthood through December.
Boehner can comfortably pass a clean bill now because he doesn’t have to worry about either losing his speakership or the damaging effects on party morale that a failed attempt to oust him would have.
“More than anything, my first job as Speaker is to protect the institution,” Boehner said at a press conference Friday. He said that while he had planned to leave at the end of the year, he decided to leave sooner because it became clear to him that “this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution.”
The source of that turmoil was an increasingly militant right wing in the House that wouldn’t be satisfied unless Boehner held hostage the government’s funding, and even its creditworthiness, to try to force President Obama to capitulate to their demands.
That strategy always failed at the last minute, but usually at considerable cost to the country’s function and the Republican Party’s reputation.
Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) had no desire to repeat those mistakes. But the latest fight over Planned Parenthood, inspired by a series of deceptively edited videos from an anti-choice front group, looked as though it could be the last straw for Boehner’s leadership. A group of about 30 Tea Party Republicans threatened to oust him unless he passed a budget that would cut all federal funding for the women’s health organization.
Boehner insisted at Friday’s press conference that he was not “pushed out,” and that he wouldn’t do anything differently as a result of stepping down.
But Congressional budget experts are predicting that although it’s now unlikely that the government will shut down at the end of the month, it looked probable before Boehner’s announcement that the government would shut down for at least a day or two over Planned Parenthood funding.
The new Speaker of the House is likely to be Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), who is slightly more popular than Boehner among the far right, but also less seasoned. It’s not clear whether he could avoid the same dynamics that have held normal governance hostage over the last several years.
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, isn’t optimistic.
“It looks like leadership in the House may go from bad to worse,” Laguens said in a statement. “While John Boehner was never a champion of women’s health in this country, even he recognized that defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t what the American people wanted. The extreme flank of this Congress has become so obsessed with ending women’s access to basic health care that they’ll pursue it at all costs.”