There is no way to determine the effect of the remarks of Pope Francis on John Boehner, who wept through much of the joint session during which the Pope addressed the U.S. Congress at the Speaker's request on Thursday, September 24, but Boehner's resignation as House Speaker the following day came as a shock to most members.
Under attack by hard-line Republican conservatives who threaten an institutional crisis, Boehner will not only resign as Speaker, but as a member of Congress, where he has represented Ohio's 8th District for the past 24 years. A constant focus of conservatives' complaints, Boehner was facing the threat of a floor vote to oust him as speaker, a formal challenge that hasn't happened in more than 100 years. The move was being pushed by the tea party, which said that Boehner was not fighting hard enough to strip Planned Parenthood of government funds. If successful, that action could result in a government shutdown next week.
According to the Associated Press, the turmoil in Congress is playing out against a contentious race for the GOP presidential nomination in which the top candidates are all Washington outsiders — many of whom have criticized Boehner and his Senate counterpart, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose ratings have sagged even among Republicans.
Religious conservatives, in Washington for the Family Research Council's Values Voter Summit, erupted in extended applause when Florida's Sen. Marco Rubio informed them that Boehner was resigning. "I'm not here to bash anyone, but the time has come to turn the page," Rubio said.
Although it's not certain who will succeed Boehner, the most obvious candidate is Kevin McCarthy, the No. 2 House Republican, who did not immediately announce plans to run for the office. In any case, Boehner's departure will result in a major leadership race in which tea party conservatives are expected to field a candidate. What that means for future interaction with Democratic President Barak Obama is anybody's guess.