POLITICS

Amid Departure, John Boehner Promises To Avoid Government Shutdown

The House speaker says he'll also "clean the barn up a little bit" in his final month.

WASHINGTON -- A noticeably relaxed House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) promised Sunday to avert a government shutdown and do do some cleaning in his final month at the helm of the House.

“I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn. I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets there,” the soon-to-be-former speaker said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

To the optimistic, Boehner’s remarks suggest the Republican leader might try to move on several other items that his conservative hardliners have hamstrung, such as raising the debt ceiling and the reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank. Boehner stunned Washington on Friday with a surprise announcement that he would be leaving the speaker's chair and Congress at the end of October.

But a senior congressional aide said Boehner’s last month may not be as productive as he hopes. While the speaker no longer needs to appease his party hardliners, his successor still will.

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) "has to get 218 on the floor at the end of October and we can't do anything to make that harder [for him to get],” the aide told HuffPost on Sunday.

Boehner's retirement announcement came at a another critical juncture on the Hill, with lawmakers having just four days remaining to avert a government shutdown.

Boehner promised Sunday that his departure would ensure that won't happen, issuing a flat “No” when asked if lawmakers would allow the government’s doors to shutter Thursday.

Last week's announcement came on the heels of a career high point for Boehner, a devout Catholic, after he hosted the pope at the Capitol on Thursday for a historic address to a joint meeting of Congress. While the longtime congressman had been rumored to be weighing retirement for months, many speculated that the visit influenced Friday’s announcement -- a decision he said he made just hours before.

“I think it helped clear the picture,” Boehner said Sunday of the pope’s visit. “I never related one of these instances with the other. But clearly ... by the end of the night, it was pretty clear to me.”

Boehner relayed a story from the visit that he had previously shared at a Friday press conference, saying the pope had asked the speaker to pray for him.

“Who am I to pray for the Pope?” Boehner said through tears.  

This post has been updated with comment from a senior congressional aide.

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