POLITICS

House Speaker John Boehner's Biggest, Saddest And Gladdest Moments

"Hell no you can't!"

WASHINGTON -- When House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced Friday that he would resign his speakership, he did so at a bittersweet moment. The sweet part is that after 20 years of trying, the former altar boy finally got a pope to address Congress, an achievement that so moved him he practically wept through the entire event.   

The bitter part was that Boehner was once again caught in yet another government shutdown drama, with a recalcitrant supporting cast happy for Boehner to be the star of a show that flops every time. 

Now, with a faction of conservative House Republicans again threatening to oust Boehner from leadership, he's resigning in an effort to spare the institution leadership turmoil in addition to its usual dysfunction. Boehner's announcement makes a shutdown less likely.

"He is the tree character in Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree. He did this for his friends who he didn't want to have to take a tough vote," said Sam Geduldig, a GOP operative close to Boehner. "Now all that's left is his stump for them to sit on. We're so proud of him."

Below is a look back at some of those other bitter and sweet moments from the speaker's time with the gavel. 

A SAD CHRISTMAS: One of Boehner's saddest moments as speaker came two days before Christmas in 2011, when Boehner was all alone in the lower chamber so nobody could yell at him while the House approved a package of tax cuts that were about to expire. 

Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) told reporters that December that he saw Boehner in the hallway and wished him a merry Christmas, adding that he told Boehner he "felt for him" and that Boehner's eyes watered. 

"Speaker Boehner did not make this mess. I think it was forced upon him. He had to try to clean it up. He's the front person and he's here alone," Cohen told reporters. "They always say victory has a thousand allies, defeat is an orphan. And today, he was an orphan."

LAST-MINUTE PLANS ALWAYS BLOWING UP: The next year, as the tax provisions were again expiring, Boehner and House Republicans came to the brink of a "fiscal cliff." Claiming there had been bad faith on the president's part, Boehner walked away from the negotiations in favor of a Plan B -- only to have that blow up in his face, too. This would continually be a problem for Boehner. His fallback options were always a touch too cute. Like here and here.

SHUTTING DOWN THE GOVERNMENT: In 2013, the government actually shut down, resulting in billions of dollars of economic damage for which Republicans were blamed. Boehner had tried steadfastly to prevent it from happening. But in the end, he decided to let the conservatives in the caucus let out some steam first, which ended up costing the government $24 billion dollars or so.

NEARLY DEFAULTING ON THE DEBT: In the summer of 2011, Congress flirted with a debt ceiling crisis, and Boehner almost struck a "grand bargain" with President Barack Obama only to see it collapse in a cloud of recrimination.  From that moment, however, we did get a few interesting items: a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating by Standards & Poor, the whole movement to "mint the coin!" and sequestration, which has reduced our deficit but also stymied economic growth and important things like biomedical research.

OBAMACARE THEATRICS:  This pre-dated his time as speaker, but it's a signature Boehner moment of the Obama era. In a House floor speech during the 2010 Obamacare debate, Boehner famously bellowed, "Hell no you can't!" He was answering his own question about whether legislators could say the bill had been written openly.

(Boehner didn't mention that the bill had wound its way through hearings and markups on no fewer than five different congressional committees.) 

CREATING A BENGHAZI COMMITTEE: This could end up being his greatest legacy item from a Republican perspective. At the time, a Benghazi committee seemed totally superfluous, since many investigations had already been launched into the Sept. 11, 2011, attacks on the compound. Buts since then, the committee has uncovered Hillary Clinton's exclusive use of a private email account, which in turn is really cramping Clinton's plans to be the next president. 

INVITING BIBI NETANYAHU TO ADDRESS CONGRESS: This is probably the polar inverse of the Benghazi committee. At the time, it looked like a crafty way to try to upend the president's Iran nuclear deal. But when the Israel prime minister addressed Congress, he only made the debate more of a partisan issue. Several Democrats have called it a turning point -- and not in a way that favored Boehner's goal of killing the accord. 

SUING THE PRESIDENT -- NOT ONCE, BUT TWICEYes. Boehner grew litigious as his speakership went on. And not without some success. A court recently ruled that the House of Representatives did have standing to sue the president over what Boehner claims have been unlawful, unilateral changes to Obamacare. 

GETING TO SEE THE HOLY-SEE:  Pope Francis addressing Congress this week gave Boehner one of his gladdest moments as speaker. He had tried to get a pope to come to the Capitol for 20 years, ever since he was a sophomore in 1994, and now it's a coda for his speakership. 

“What a day. What a moment for our country," Boehner said Thursday. "I’m so proud that so many came to greet the Pope here at our Capitol, the world’s greatest symbol of democracy. The Holy Father’s visit is surely a blessing for all of us."

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