With the recent announcement this past Friday that Speaker of the House John Boehner will resign from his position effective the end of October, many lawmakers, pundits, analysts, and spectators on both sides of the aisle wonder what implications his departure will have on what is widely considered one of the most polarized Congresses ever.
Boehner, lampooned for being one of the more sentimental lawmakers in recent years, first gained prominence for opposing President Obama in negotiations over 2011’s fiscal cliff. But it’s his sudden resignation that most observers should keep their eyes on, as it signals a seismic shift moving Congress even farther from its ability to work towards bipartisan goals and to function efficiently.
From the onset, Boehner acted as a moderating force within the Republican party, willing to toe the party line on ideological issues and yet negotiate and compromise deals with the Democrats in order to keep the government running, as seen in 2013 (the government shutdown over defunding Obamacare) and earlier this year (a House threat to defund the Department of Homeland Security). Yet his actions earned him the ire of many on the right, accusing him of being a sellout to his party, which undoubtedly played some role in his decision to resign.
With Boehner soon to be out of the way, it’s likely that his successor will be someone more radical and less amenable to compromise, or someone who is also as nuanced as he was but lacks the appropriate level of political experience to restrain the more partisan members within the House and his party. In the absence of such a moderating voice, it’s likely that the already-intense partisan and ideological divides within Congress will widen even more, further impeding the chances of bipartisan legislation being passed.
Regardless, Boehner’s departure deeply affects both parties, and calls into question Congress’ efficacy and its ability to—somehow—not descend into partisan, ideological squabbles (well, at least for this term).
As one pundit put it, “that’s precisely why you should not be happy about Boehner’s resignation.”