Outgoing Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-OH left the speakership as he entered it, with tears. On Thursday morning, Oct. 29, 2015 Boehner bid farewell to 25 years in the House of Representatives, and five as Speaker of the House with a farewell address. In his last speech in Congress he expressed he had “no regrets,” and discussed some of his greatest life and Congressional achievements, tearing up as the emotional speaker usually has at major points his Congressional career. House Minority Leader and frenemy Nancy Pelosi, D-CA and incoming Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, R-WI also feted Boehner. The House chamber was packed to say goodbye to the Boehner well ushering a new era in for the GOP controlled House.
A humble Boehner brought a box of tissues up to the podium as he gave his last speech to the place that has been professional home for the last 25 years. The outgoing speaker expressed, “I leave with no regrets or burdens. If anything, I leave as I started – just a regular guy humbled by the chance to do a big job. I’m still just me. The same guy who came here 25 years ago.” Boehner continued by saying, “That’s what I’m most proud of – that I’m still just me.”
Getting emotional, Boehner recounted, “I’ve described my life as a chase for the American Dream. That chase began at the bottom of a hill just off the main drag in Reading, Ohio.” The outgoing speaker looked back his childhood in Ohio, the lessons that he learned and values he kept his whole life, “As far back as I can remember, I was working, going back to when I was 8 or 9, throwing newspapers, working at my dad’s bar on Saturdays. I never thought about it as coming up the easy way or the hard way. It’s just the Cincinnati way.”
Boehner talked about his successes and fondest memories in Congress and as speaker, noting his ban of earmarks, saying, “We banned earmarks altogether. Sorry.” Boehner also “touted” his other major achievements as speaker including ensuring Bush era tax cuts stay in place, reducing spending, and “forging entitlement reforms.” Boehner pointed out, “Real change takes time. Yes, freedom makes all things possible, but patience makes all things real.” Boehner achieved his last “legislative achievement” just yesterday, Wednesday, Oct. 28 when the House passed the two-year budget and debt ceiling deal the outgoing speaker spearheaded part of his plan of “cleaning out the barn” before his retirement.
Towards the end of his speech, Boehner started tearing up, needing to use the box of tissues he brought with him, especially as the Hill noted as he always does when discussing the “American Dream.” The Ohio Congressman expressed, “In America you can do anything you’re willing to work for, willing to work hard at. Anything can happen if you’re willing to make the necessary sacrifices in life.”
Boehner praised the House of Representatives, despite his conflicts with the GOP Freedom Caucus that forced him into an earlier retirement. Boehner said, “The people’s House is, in my view, the great embodiment of the American idea. Everyone comes from somewhere and is on some mission… We have protected this institution and made it more open to the people … So believe in the long, slow struggle. Believe in this country’s ability to meet her challenges, and lead the world.” Concluding the outgoing speaker said, “It was all just perfect. Never forget, we are the luckiest people on the face of the Earth.”
Boehner also praised his successor, Paul Ryan, who was voted Speaker of the House Wednesday morning after Boehner’s farewell speech. Boehner remembered Ryan volunteered for his first campaign, “That includes a student at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, who was putting up signs for me during one of my very first campaigns in the early 90s. His name was Paul Ryan.”
Boehner commended Ryan, who was reluctant to run for the speakership, but did so because the party was in desperate, and on the verge of chaos after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy withdraw, putting Boehner’s retirement in peril. The outgoing speaker expressed, “As Cincinnatus understood, there’s a difference between being asked to do something and being called to do something. Paul is being called to serve, and I know he will serve that calling with grace and energy.”
At the end of his speech, Boehner received a standing ovation and then shook his colleagues hands. After as the Hill recounted he “saluted fellow lawmakers as he looked around the House chamber for what may be the final time.”
Incoming Speaker Ryan and Minority Leader Pelosi both gave tributes to Boehner. Pelosi and Boehner who a relationship best described as frenemies, praised her retiring colleague as “the personification of the American dream.” Pelosi said, “In his story, we are reminded of the enduring, exceptional promise of America – this hardworking son of an Ohio bartender and owner, who grew up to be speaker of the House of Representatives.” While Ryan called Boehner a “true class act.” Boehner thanked the outgoing speaker “He is without question, the gentleman from Ohio. … thank you Speaker Boehner.”
Boehner was first elected to Congress in 1990 from Ohio’s 8th Congressional District and he has been speaker for the last five years since the GOP gained control of the House in 2010. Boehner, announced on Sept. 25 his decision to resign as speaker and from his House seat on Oct. 30. The resignation date is a little earlier than his original plan. Boehner wanted to resign by his 66th birthday on Nov. 17. Congress gave Boehner an early birthday and retirement gift to help him spend his newfound time, a golf cart. Boehner will officially hand his resignation letter on Friday, Oct. 30.