John Boehner is resigning. The embattled Speaker of the House waited out Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston, and Denny Hastert. He stayed on the sidelines during coup, counter-coup, and Tom DeLay. But over the past few years, since he took the Speaker’s chair, Boehner has not led so much as been dragged around.
After taking back the House in 2010, Boehner increasingly marginalized social conservatives. After the 2012 win, he increasingly marginalized fiscal conservatives. More and more, Boehner had to rely on Democrats and moderate Republicans to get anything done in the House. In the old days, punishing members by removing them from committees would have worked. But now, thanks to outside groups like Heritage Action for America, Madison Project, Club for Growth, and even the Senate Conservatives Fund, punishing members made them martyrs and emboldened them.
With the Iran Deal and the pending debt ceiling fight, Boehner finally marginalized war hawks in Congress, thereby putting himself on the outs with every wing of the party in Congress save the moderates who are in the minority. Before the August recess, Congressman Mark Meadows filed a motion to vacate the chair, which would effectively strip Boehner of power. No one, including conservatives, thought Boehner was in trouble. But over the August recess, it became clear to members that their own Republican voters supported Meadows.
Boehner did not have the votes to survive a motion. His own friends began openly talking about his end. Ultimately, the House Majority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, turned a blind eye to talk of coups and, consequently, conservatives sped up their plotting.
Boehner had nowhere to go. He dealt as badly with this as he has the President on the debt ceiling and so many other issues. But the key is not that Boehner negotiated bad deals getting him into trouble. It is not that he sat with the President.
Boehner’s problem is that he held more and more of his own party in the House in contempt. In the end, it wasn’t just the conservatives who felt shut out and unable to do business with Boehner. Everyone else did to. So Boehner had to go.