by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Once the most coveted position in Congress, the role of speaker is now viewed by many lawmakers as an impossible job, thanks to a deeply divided Republican conference that has become increasingly incompatible since 2010, when dozens of conservative lawmakers backed by the Tea Party were first elected to the House. The GOP’s most conservative faction helped drive out Speaker John Boehner, who has held the gavel since 2010 and announced he plans to leave as soon as a successor is elected.
Boehner’s decision to quit followed years of taunting by conservative groups who hit a nerve with the speaker by criticizing his every move and questioning his conservative credentials. Popular right-leaning radio show hosts regularly called for Boehner’s ouster. …
… Conservative lawmakers complicated much of Boehner’s tenure. They often flouted the GOP leadership, voting against key legislation they deemed too moderate and forcing Boehner to negotiate with Democrats in order to win enough votes to pass bills despite a hefty majority.
On Sept. 25, Boehner announced he was stepping down to avoid “prolonged leadership turmoil” that was likely to result as he negotiates a major budget deal with Democrats and the White House.
Boehner hoped to retire at the end of October, but he could be forced to remain speaker because the top candidates to succeed him don’t want the job.
Boehner and other top lawmakers are “begging” Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., to run, even though he has repeatedly said he’s not interested, citing his commitment to his family. More recently, though, Ryan is said to be reluctantly considering the job, according to some lawmakers.