‘Shocked, sad, and a little bit angry’: Rep. Kline reflects on Boehner resignation

REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Earlier Friday, Speaker John Boehner announced he would resign from the House in October.

WASHINGTON — When Speaker John Boehner walked into a closed-door meeting of the House Republican conference to announce his resignation, his colleagues were shocked — including his close ally and friend, Second District Rep. John Kline.

“When the Speaker got up and conducted routine business and then made this announcement, I was shocked as was everyone in the room,” Kline said in a phone interview Friday afternoon. “I was shocked, sad, and a little bit angry in one big, roiling burst of emotion.”

With a potential shutdown ahead and a leadership coup bubbling in his party’s conservative wing, an upbeat Boehner said in a press conference that he decided Friday morning to resign and spare the House a difficult few months. He said he had initially planned to retire at the end of the year, but hastened it Friday, a day after Boehner — a devout Catholic — met with Pope Francis in the Capitol.

In the hours since Boehner’s decision went public, reaction from across the political spectrum has been swift. Longtime allies and even erstwhile opponents — like President Barack Obama and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid — expressed their admiration for Boehner and praised his honesty and 25-year service in the House. Kline, along with fellow Minnesota Republicans Erik Paulsen and Tom Emmer, called Boehner’s decision selfless and courageous.

Meanwhile, Boehner’s bitter rivals within his own party took the opportunity to gloat. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz gleefully credited conservative, anti-establishment activists with Boehner’s ouster and accused the speaker of cutting a deal with Democrats before he leaves office. Kline called that kind of criticism “sad.” There was a “small group of colleagues who were not happy with his leadership, in large part because they don’t understand what the obstacles are,” he said.

Kline emphasized that Boehner got a lot done given those obstacles, which include a Democrat in the White House and a Democratic Senate for most of his five-year speakership. “John Boehner has provided steady and thoughtful leadership for his time as speaker dealing with tough circumstances,” he said.

Boehner’s critics are in for a rude awakening, Kline said. “People are frustrated and they took it out on John Boehner because he’s a visible leader…they’re gonna find out, whoever takes the position, they’re going to have the same issues to deal with.”

Speaking with MinnPost shortly before Boehner’s 1 p.m. press conference, Kline said he hadn’t talked with Boehner since the news broke. “I sent him a text on his cell phone with a couple words of encouragement,” Kline said. “It’s a very, very big day. I’ll talk to him over the coming days and weeks. We are pretty good friends and we’ll have the chance to have a glass of wine.”

Kline said he was confident that Boehner will continue working hard during his remaining five weeks in Congress: “He may be able to get some things done and clear some things out of the way,” he said.  

One thing he might clear? A government shutdown: Boehner is reportedly likely to push a resolution to fund the government that includes funding for Planned Parenthood, which would survive a conservative revolt with moderate and Democratic support. Capitol Hill press quickly concluded Boehner’s move is certain to avert a shutdown next week.

Aside from being a friend of Boehner, Kline may have special insight: he’s looking at a big to-do list before his own retirement at the end of next year. Some politics-watchers in D.C. joked that if Boehner or Kline retired, the other would soon follow suit. Indeed, Kline announced his retirement September 3rd, three weeks ago.

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Comments (6)

  1. Submitted by Bruce Pomerantz on 09/25/2015 - 03:06 pm.

    A politician but not a statesman

    If John Boehner truly wanted to act as a statesman, he would have worked with Nancy Pelosi on legislation that had the support of moderate Republicans and Democrats which would have forced the Senate leaders to do likewise. Instead, his resignation prtmits gridlock to continue because he would not make the Republican Tea Partiers irrelevant.

  2. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/25/2015 - 03:16 pm.

    He Won’t Be the Scapegoat

    I suspect John Boehner has come to the conclusion that there’s a major train wreck coming in the Republican Caucus of the House and in the National Republican Party.

    He’s been trying hard to slow down that train speeding toward the end of the track and over a cliff where there’s no bridge to cross the chasm,…

    and has gotten nothing from his “tea party” Republican caucus members but continuous attacks for not allowing them take the throttle to full speed.

    Now, by resigning, he’ll get to watch as an elder statesman,…

    while the GOP caucus in the House shreds itself,..

    (I won’t be surprised to see them come to blows),…

    and either Trump starts a third party run if he doesn’t get the GOP nomination,…

    or other factions of the party start a third party run with Bush or Rubio as their candidate if Trump does get the nomination.

    However the chaos arrives, John Boehner, by taking himself out of the picture, is making sure no one can claim that HE’S responsible for it,…

    and that he’s remembered, instead, as a hero who tried for as long as humanly possible to stop it.

    • Submitted by Dennis Wagner on 09/25/2015 - 06:29 pm.

      Good Analysis

      Lead-follow-get out of the way: Reminds me of a local community council: Their way or highway more or less ended up as (no-way, no progress, no nothing) which clearly was “Their way”!

  3. Submitted by Tom Christensen on 09/25/2015 - 03:20 pm.

    Nothing to be proud of

    John Boehner said he was stepping down to avoid irreparable harm to the institution. I believe he is stepping down to save John. I find his excuse a phony one after years of helping the House of Representatives essentially take no actions and reaping some of the lowest approval rating numbers in the House history. He has orchestrated 6 years of messing with peoples’ lives, all for no good. He still has 11,000,000 Hispanics, who are 11,000,000 human immigrants that came here to do the work big business lobbied for. Now Boehner won’t release a filibuster proof, bipartisan bill from the Senate because he won’t put it put up for a vote. He will be remembered, but for all the wrong reasons. He will be remembered as half of the leadership of the “do nothing Congress”. We have a government that generally runs on a three-month budget rather than a twelve-month budget, thanks to Boehner’s team. Early on, Boehner couldn’t figure out who the tea party was, but he needed votes, so he embraced them and they have systematically destroyed the Republican Party. They can’t work with others and they can’t work among themselves. I don’t believe Boehner has anything at all to be proud of. In January Boehner and McConnell said, “Now we have to prove we can lead”. Both are failures and they have lead their party to failure. The GOP circus continues and is likely headed for worse.

  4. Submitted by Roy Everson on 09/25/2015 - 03:38 pm.

    C-word needs a modifier

    “a leadership coup bubbling in his party’s conservative wing,” Conservative wing is a rather bland description in the context of an entire caucus that is conservative with few exceptions. What’s wrong with “reactionary” or “ultra-conservative” or “arch-conservative”? Many Republicans in the 1860s prided themselves in being called Radical Republicans. If they can misappropriate the term “Tea Party” then the modern extremists may as well borrow from the Radical Republicans.

  5. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 09/27/2015 - 09:02 pm.

    Tea Party radicals

    The Tea Party radicals have a two fold agenda, shut down the government and destroy the GOP in order to make it into a party that they control.

    They also want politicians to have “principles” and then say vote for Donald Trump.

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