WASHINGTON – Minnesota’s lawmakers — even some of the Democrats — said Friday that GOP House Speaker John Boehner’s abrupt announcement that he was leaving his job next month will mean a loss of fair leadership on Capitol Hill.
Boehner’s decision Friday came five days before Congress must act to avert another government shutdown.
Republican Rep. John Kline, himself not seeking re-election next year, is among Boehner’s closest friends in Congress. Both men have served as chair of the House Education and the Workforce Committee and have been known to stay up late over cigarettes and cigars talking about education reform in Kline’s office.
Kline called Boehner’s decision Friday shocking.
“His announcement today is a selfless act and Speaker Boehner wanted to do what’s best for this institution and the country,” Kline said in a statement. “John’s leadership, integrity and sincerity will be dearly missed in Washington and his resignation leaves a tremendous void.”
Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, who was elected to Congress with Boehner in 1990, called him a “great legislator.”
“Now on our side, [the Democrats] may be, ‘Oops we may get someone who is a lot worse,’ ” Peterson said. “I’ve told people I’ve known Boehner forever and we don’t agree on a lot of things, but Boehner is a legislator. Boehner is here for the right reason. He is here to do what he considers best for the country and he knows he’s not going to get his way on everything.”
House Republicans are fighting among themselves on supporting a budget that includes funding for Planned Parenthood. Boehner faces pressure by more than 30 conservatives in the House to force a federal government shutdown if cash for Planned Parenthood is included in a spending bill. Much of that same group also had threatened to strip Boehner of his speakership.
But the majority of Republicans, including Minnesota’s three Republicans — Kline, Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer — are urging a “clean” spending bill that likely would inspire some Democratic support.
Most lawmakers speculate that the odds of a shutdown dropped with Boehner’s news Friday.
He no longer has to care as much about keeping the entire caucus happy in budget negotiations — or fear for his job anymore.
Paulsen called Boehner’s decision selfless and full of humility.
“His steady, calm leadership has been an asset as Congress has navigated through difficult obstacles and passionate debates,” Paulsen said.
Emmer, in a brief statement, thanked Boehner for his leadership. “It was an honor to work with him during my first nine months in Washington,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Betty McCollum, who is in Japan this week at her son’s wedding, e-mailed a story from her first years in Congress calling Boehner “one of the good guys on the Republican side” when she was a newbie on the Hill.
“It’s most unfortunate that the speaker is leaving Congress as the result of ruthless attacks from Republican extremists,” McCollum added.
Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan echoed that sentiment, saying it was regrettable that “radical” elements of the Republican Party have pushed good leaders out.
Across the Capitol, Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar said she appreciated the recent bipartisan work Boehner did on fixing Medicare reimbursement rates for doctors. “His job is a tough one,” she said.