Why Is John Boehner Resigning as Speaker of the House?

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U.S. Speaker of the House Rep. John Boehner (R-OH) speaks during his weekly news conference February 6, 2014 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

House Speaker John Boehner announced today that he will be retiring from Congress at the end of October. His announced stunned Capitol Hill. Why is he leaving?

According to Politico, Boehner had been planning his retirement since 2014. They write that Boehner had “planned to leave Congress at the end of 2014… but returned because of the unexpected defeat of Eric Cantor.”

Cantor served as a Republican United States representative for Virginia’s 7th congressional district from 2001 to 2014. In 2014, Cantor lost his re-election bid to newcomer and Tea Partier David Brat. Brat’s defeat of Cantor is considered one of the biggest upsets in congressional history and made him the first primary challenger to oust a sitting House Majority Leader since the position was created in 1899. Cantor was in line to be the next Speaker of the House. His defeat made Boehner postpone his retirement until 2015.

Boehner’s retirement also coincides with a political move that may upset the Republican party. Republicans are again threatening a government shutdown if their defunding of Planned Parenthood does not pass, but now that he doesn’t have internal political pressure, Boehner is likely to push through a government-funding bill next week that not only keeps the government open but also continues to fund Planned Parenthood.

A Boehner aide said in a statement to reporters regarding his departure:

“Speaker Boehner believes that the first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution and, as we saw yesterday with the Holy Father, it is the one thing that unites and inspires us all. The Speaker’s plan was to serve only through the end of last year. Leader Cantor’s loss in his primary changed that calculation. The Speaker believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his Speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.”

Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the current Majority Leader, is widely expected to be the next speaker after Boehner retires.