This kind of came out of nowhere.
John Boehner will resign as speaker of the House at the end of October and leave Congress, choosing to end his tumultuous tenure rather than fight a conservative revolt against his leadership.
Boehner had battled conservatives aligned with the Tea Party for most of his nearly five years as speaker, and in recent weeks they had threatened to try to oust him from power if did not pursue a strategy of defunding Planned Parenthood that would have likely led to a government shutdown. Conservatives said that if Boehner failed to fight on the government spending bill, they would call up a procedural motion to “vacate the chair” and demand the election of a new speaker. Facing the likelihood that he would need Democrats to save him, Boehner instead chose to step down. In one of his last acts as speaker, Boehner is now expected to defy conservatives by bringing up a funding bill that would prevent a government shutdown beginning next week but that would not cut money from Planned Parenthood.
I had the expectation that the coming push by the Far Right in Congress - especially the House - to force a shutdown over Planned Parenthood would go one of two ways: Boehner fighting back to retain contol of a fractured House, or Boehner losing his position to the wingnuts who would then go on a Shutdown rampage. This is Option Three: Boehner resigns and lets the Republican Party run wild after the shattering of the conch shell.
Should have seen this coming, though. Boehner isn't... wasn't exactly known for his fortitude.
I've been, by the by, reading up on the history of the Speakerships, and so far I haven't found a single case of where a Speaker lost his control of his own House while his party remained in majority. The closest I can come is Speaker Joseph Cannon in 1910 losing some of his powers (and control of the Rules Committee) but even then he retained his Speaker post. I think Boehner was facing the embarrassing possibility of being the first ever Speaker removed by his own party's Vote of No Confidence...
Boehner is still technically the Speaker until the end of October, which means that the coming Shutdown over Planned Parenthood starts on his watch. I am - I'm not the only one either - convinced that his stepping down is because he knew he would not be able to form some alternative to the looming shutdown threat.
(Update: I am reading that Boehner's resignation is giving him leeway to pass a continuance on the budget for another month or two, meaning we won't get a shutdown this October. We're now gonna get a shutdown for Christmas. Io Saturnalia, everybody!)
This is now going to play out much like Option Two on my Either/Or list. The Far Right in the House are going to get into a quick flurry over which horse to back - either someone hard-right on everything, or someone completely OFF THE CLIFF - and then we'll likely see a series of confrontations between the House and everyone else over how much destruction the nation is going to have to endure for a few months.
This is going to be messy. Earlier this year, Boehner faced a challenge like this but easily won re-election to the Speakership because the Far Right faction didn't have a specific anti-Boehner candidate to be their bannerman. This time, this can be a free-for-all. Without Boehner as the obvious choice for a majority of Republicans to back, they can splinter much the same way the candidates for the Presidency - now around 15 names - have splintered that choice. There's going to be six, ten, fifteen Congresscritters putting their name in the bucket, all of them claiming to be the Purist, the Chosen One destined to save the Reagan Legacy. If they can get it done in one vote, I'll be stunned. If they can do it without devolving into the megabrawls half the global parliaments get into during heated situations like this one, I'll be doubly impressed.
This is, again, an example of how the purity purge within the GOP has eliminated the party discipline needed to remain a functioning political party.
And the Far Right is seeing this as a Win-Win for them. Of course they are cheering Boehner's departure. Even with his dedication to the Republican Agenda of "Stop Obama", Boehner still did such things as, well, his job to pass laws that could get through the Senate and across the President's desk. That meant the occasional compromise and back-room deal or help from Democrats. And the Far Right HATED that.
Remember: Boehner's leaving because he didn't push the Far Right agenda hard ENOUGH. They want to go further. All the hassles we've had up to now - the obstruction, the denials, the refusal to work, the shutdowns - are going to get worse.
The likelihood that the next Speaker is going to be an Absolutist when it comes to the job title is a near certainty. It's just a question of which one: Louie Gohmert, Steven Scalise, Jim Jordan, Jeb Hensarling, Steve King... I've heard Paul Ryan's name mentioned as a "serious" push for "fiscal conservatism" all because Ryan's still got that death budget on his USB drive somewhere. I've seen Tim Huelskamp's name mentioned on Twitter, but he's too "new" to the scene and he's alienated a good number of fellow Republicans - he got booted off committees by his own party leadership! - to where he won't get more than twenty or so backers. Still, nearly every name I've seen out there are extremists, utter denialists. I dare not call them idealists because they really don't believe in anything except the destruction of others, and making sure they have a spot reserved on Fox Not-News.
I doubt it's going to be the current Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (no, the other one) as the Speaker because he's proven incapable of keeping the hard-liners under control as much as Boehner. Having Boehner - unloved, unmourned by his own party - vouch for him makes it worse.
The hard-liners are going to want one of their own in charge. It's just a question which one.
And then it'll be war. It's what they want.
Eager to go to war at long last, eager to defund Planned Parenthood, giddy about banning abortion and gay marriage, desperate to kill off Obamacare, thrilled to shred treaties, all of that.
Welcome to Crazytown. Population 317 Million. Because the Far Right lives in that world and they're imposing it on the rest of us. We are all going among mad people now. Hope you don't mind.
P.S. I won't envy whoever gets the Speakership. That guy may think he's in charge but he won't be: this overthrow of Boehner - a Speaker resigning not under threat of scandal or poor health, but of intra-party obsession - is just going to make it easier for the next challenger to get the new Speaker's scalp. The new Speaker is either going to hit a brick wall of getting none of the Far Right ideology passed or forced into making his own compromises. And he's going to figure out real quick where Boehner hid the secret stash of Jack Daniels...
Update: So anyway, if you want a rundown of who that new Speaker is gonna be, play on Don.
Kevin McCarthy (CA) - currently the Majority Leader and the heir designate to Boehner, which likely means the wingnuts will never accept him. Doomed.
Louie Gohmert (TX) - put himself up as a challenger back in January but dropped out when he realized the job actually meant he'd have to wake up before 9 A.M. He's the more prominent of the wingnuts due to his having a permanent parking spot over at the Fox Not-News cafeteria. We're Doomed.
Sean Hannity (Fantasyland) - oddly enough, ANYONE can be voted Speaker. This could happen, although the outrage across the planet would be unavoidable. I'm just testing to see if you're reading this.
Daniel Webster (FL) - something of a dark horse guy, but he garnered a couple of votes back in January. He's one of the Republicans (10th district) who profits from the massive gerrymandering that's destroying MY state of Florida. And he's practically next door to me on the map. Damn him.
Jim Jordon (OH) - also won some votes back in January. He's one of the shutdown architects from 2013 and a major critic of health care reform. Basically he's one of the guys who would willingly drive the car over the cliff. We're Doomed As Doomed Could Be.
Steve Scalise (LA) - currently the House Whip. Let's just point out how this guy has connections to white supremacist groups and wonder how well the GOP outreach to minority voters is going to work with him in that office. Never.
Steve King (IA) - one of the more senior Congressmen in the House and also a major anti-immigration leader. Also a major critic of Obama. Also a major pain in the ass for the nation. One of the biggest Know-Nothings the U.S. has seen since the 1850s. Of course the Republicans would consider him for the Speakership. Headdesk.
Tim Huelskamp (KS) - one of the newest Congressmen in the House, yet a major pain in the ass for his own party (how else does he lose his seats in committees?). He is part of the group of wingnuts that has been trying to push Boehner out since 2013... and succeeded this week. However, he's more of a backer to the others in his group - Jim Jordon, Justin Amash, et al - so it's likely he's backing Jordon in this move. If his name does come up - while Jordon's also comes up - then it's a free-for-all for real.
Ted Yoho (FL) - I heard his name come up somewhere, probably in a fevered nightmare. Just, no. NO.
Nancy Pelosi (CA) - it's not that the Republicans would vote for her as a Democrat, it's that there's a likelihood due to how the voting is done that a fractured Republican House would break into too many caucuses. All she would need is a majority of voting Congress members: if enough Republicans just refuse to vote (by going "present") and drop the majority requirement down to where a united Democratic caucus (around 188 votes) would vote for her, she could pull that off. However, it would certainly lead to a metaphorical bloodbath in the aisles. Unlikely.
Did I miss anyone?