A look back at the speaker’s career

As he prepares to step down next month, a look at big moments in John Boehner’s nearly five years as House speaker:

Rise to power

The Republicans captured control of the House in the 2010 midterm elections, propelled by the birth of the Tea Party and anger at President Obama. Already his party’s House leader, Boehner was set to rise to the top job: speaker of the House. Overcome with emotion on election night, he told his troops, “We have real work to do, and this is not a time for celebration.”

No grand bargain

In 2011, Boehner and Obama met secretly in hopes of negotiating a “grand bargain” that would rein in the nation’s spending, raise some taxes and fix the finances of social programs such as Medicaid. The talks fell through. Each side blamed the other.

House Republicans refused to vote to raise the nation’s borrowing limit unless Obama agreed to an equivalent roster of spending cuts.

Congress and Obama averted a shutdown with an agreement that tried to dump the big decisions about spending and taxes to a so-called “budget supercommittee.” But that panel’s failure led to crunching automatic cuts.

Government shutdown

In the fall of 2013, Boehner stood back as his party’s most strident conservatives pushed a strategy that led to a 16-day partial shutdown of the U.S. government.

Against Boehner’s better judgment, House Republicans insisted any bill to keep the government running must also defund or in some way hobble Obama’s landmark health care overhaul. Senate Democrats refused.

More than 800,000 federal workers were sent home, and polls show Republicans bore the brunt of the blame.

Leadership challenges

Boehner put down a challenge to his leadership in January 2013, when a band of conservatives staged a mini-revolt. They accused him of surrendering in their feuds with Democrats. Twelve Republicans refused to vote for Boehner, a rare level of protest from within a speaker’s own party.

Two years later, 25 party members defected from Boehner. Still, he kept his job, with no realistic alternative to offer.

Welcoming a pope

Boehner, who is Catholic, tried for 20 years to get a pontiff to address Congress — something that had never happened before Thursday.

Boehner, visibly moved as he met with the pope, later called it a “wonderful day.”

Associated Press