Suddenly, the Republican Party leader in the House of Representatives, House Speaker, John Boehner, announced his resignation. Moreover, in early October the second-in-command, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who was regarded as a likely successor to Mr. Boehner, unexpectedly withdrew from the Speakership race. The election for Speaker of the House is scheduled for October 29; but, as of the middle of October all the candidates to be the successor to unite the Republican Party have disappeared. By the time this is published, a new Speaker will probably have been chosen, but it may not be an end to the turmoil in the Republican Party.
In the mid-term elections last November, the Republicans were big winners, claiming 247 of the 435 seats in the House, the largest number since 1928. In the same election, the Republicans also gained a majority in the Senate. Heading into next year’s presidential race, the party claimed that their governing capability would be demonstrated to voters through the stable operation of Congress, and there was no expectation of any kind of disruption in the political calendar. That is why, less than one year later, everyone was surprised by Speaker Boehner’s announcement of his resignation.
Speaker Boehner’s decision to resign was precipitated by the intensifying conflict within the Republican Party. Even as the end of September approached, there was no agreement on an interim budget for the new fiscal year starting on October 1, and a government closure was imminent. The Speaker and the Republican Party leaders were in a hurry to establish a condition-free interim budget that even the Democratic Party would approve. However, among the conditions imposed for approval of the interim budget by the conservative hardliners within the Republican Party was the elimination of government funding to the non-profit organization Planned Parenthood Federation of America (“PPFA”). This condition was opposed by the Democratic Party, and the deliberations deadlocked.
For the Speaker, the insistence of conservative hardliners was a foolhardy tactic. The faction’s reason for discontinuing the funding was an allegation of organ trafficking of tissue from fetuses aborted by PPFA staff, even though the PPFA had denied the allegations as "fabrications by anti-abortion groups." According to a poll, most people support continuation of funding for PPFA. The PPFA is an organization that provides a broad range of services related to women's health, with about 700 affiliated medical institutions, many of which are relied on by low-income women. In addition, abortion accounts for only 3% of the various medical services that PPFA performs, and there are already rules stating that government funding cannot be used for abortions. Cutting off the funding makes the Republican Party a target of criticism. And if opposition by Republicans to an interim budget that includes the funding leads to a government closure, public opinion will focus the blame on the party that is leading Congress, and there is a high probability that this will have an adverse effect in next year's presidential election. It was out of the question for Speaker Boehner to go along with the demands of the conservative hardliners, but, it seems he thought that announcing his own retirement was the only way to contain the conservative hardliners and get a provisional budget passed.