In order to understand the position in which Boehner found himself just prior to his announcement that he would resign from Congress at the end of October, one must first understand how recent events affected Boehner’s Republican party.
In the face of losses on the Affordable Care Act, gay marriage, and the Iran Nuclear Deal, conservative Republicans pinned their latest hopes for victory on the fight against abortion.
They believed that a video purporting to show Planned Parenthood executives discussing the sale of fetal tissue from abortions would give them the momentum to discontinue the organization’s federal funding. When it became clear that wouldn’t happen, they blamed Boehner, and called for a government shutdown. Boehner, who oversaw the last shutdown in 2013, wasn’t anxious to do so again.
Boehner, you see, is a pragmatist who understands that politics is about negotiation. He knows that in order to lead a legislative body effectively, one must have the ability to reward one’s allies and punish one’s enemies, even if those enemies are within one’s own party.
However, the politics of today’s extreme right makes punishment hard to dole out, because for too many new House conservatives, obstruction is its own reward.
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Photo: Speaker of the House John Boehner speaking at the Values Voter Summit in Washington, DC., by Gage Skidmore/Flickr Creative Commons