By: Leo Schenk – Columnist, Junior
John Boehner is resigning from his position as speaker of the House and also from his position as representative of Ohio’s 8th District, effective at the end of this month. Since 1991, Boehner has been a representative, and since 2011, he’s held the speakership during one of the most divisive times in recent congressional history, with aggression from the far-right leading to a government shutdown in 2013 even with Boehner’s moderate influences.
Growing up in southwest Ohio, I have lived under the direct influence and benefit of Boehner’s actions for the entirety of my life, as he has worked in concert with other Ohio lawmakers to bring jobs and power to the state. Since 2011, Boehner has led the House of Representatives in a decisive attempt to moderate the harsh forces on both sides of the political divide. This has not always been possible with the growth of the far-leaning-right conservative wing of his party in the last election, at the expense of moderates on both sides of party lines. Now, after four years in the speaker’s seat, Boehner has had enough of the harsh treatment from his own party and those outside of it, and after a heartfelt meeting with Pope Francis, is resigning.
The far-leaning Republicans and Democrats in Congress and in the presidential race are looking to make big gains from the power vacuum left by the speaker’s sudden resignation. It is tempting, for supporters of either side, to willingly back their power plays in Congress—but it is foolish.
According to an Aug. 9 Gallup poll, congressional approval currently sits at roughly 14 percent, and the last five years have some of the lowest approval ratings in decades. This can be attributed to the increasingly factional nature of the legislature preventing both sides from working together, causing them to appear useless in the public’s eye. Boehner and his centrist leanings were the pull toward a government that worked well, without constant fear of shutdowns. Since I was a junior in high school, there have been federal funding crises nearly every year, with one in 2013 leading to an actual shutdown. Now, with the conservative and liberal forces in both parties growing stronger, there are fewer and fewer reasons for Congress to put the functioning of the government at the forefront. This will most likely lead to more crises, and more wasted tax dollars on short-term funding solutions at the federal level, which cost far more in the long run.
The potential replacement for speaker, Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, is a conservative Republican, who says, according to The New York Times, he will take into account “the faction whose rabble has been roused.” This means a speaker much more amenable to the idea of shutting down the government for, say, defunding Planned Parenthood. The idea of a House majority completely willing to hold the basic functions of government at a halt for the advancement of a socially conservative policy, not debating these things in legislature, but using loopholes in massive bills to advance what they think is the superior moral compass, is not a representative body I want.
Speaker Boehner is resigning to give himself peace of mind after his discussion with Pope Francis last week. This will most likely be a good move for him and his family, and I wish him the best of luck. However, with increased partisanship looking to be the new norm instead of a soon to be passing trend, hopefully whoever becomes the next speaker can manage to bring together these wildly disparate groups of political ideologues.
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