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House Democrats React to Boehner Resignation

Boehner and Pelosi run into each other in the green room between their weekly news conferences on July 10, 2014. ( Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

While House Republicans were still digesting the news Speaker John A. Boehner would be stepping down at the end of October, House Democrats were quickly getting in on the action.  

In official statements, news conferences and hallway interviews, members of the minority party could barely contain their schadenfreude. "The speaker announcing his resignation  that resignation of the speaker is a stark indication of the disarray of the House Republicans," Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at her weekly news conference.  

"There's been an insurrection," said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C. "We have known there's been an insurrection in the conference for a long time,  and now the American people know it. Hopefully, the American people will now connect the dots and understand the dysfunction of government is because of the dysfunction of the Republican Conference."  

In his first public remarks on his decision to leave office next month, Boehner sought on Friday afternoon to tamp down speculation he'd been driven out by conservatives threatening to force a floor vote to strip him of his speakership .  

The Ohio Republican said he'd been planning on leaving soon anyway and, with rumors of revolt and an inspiring visit from Pope Francis the day before, he characterized his decision to announce his departure on Friday morning as one that came together in 24 hours or less.  

But whatever the case may be, it has not and will not stop Democrats from gloating and seeking to capitalize on the news to advance their messaging and legislative agendas.  

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-Va., called the resignation "a head on the platter" for the House Freedom Caucus, and suggested members would "feel more emboldened, more empowered," and make it harder to govern.  

Another theme for Democrats on Friday was to call on Boehner to "go big" in his final month in office, unencumbered by anxieties about how his decisions would impact his popularity in the conference.  

"Yesterday we heard from Pope Francis a message of compassion and a call for a renewal of cooperation," said Congressional Hispanic Caucus Chairwoman Linda T. Sánchez , D-Calif., in a statement. "My hope is that in the final month of Speaker Boehner's term in Congress we can work together to pass comprehensive immigration reform."  

House Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., said in a statement he also hoped Boehner would tackle immigration, a cause of his that got derailed in the previous Congress due of pressure from conservatives. Becerra also said he thought Boehner might pass "a jobs bill" and "long-term transportation funding to ensure that our roads and bridges keep Americans at work and their families safe."  

But not everyone took so cold a tone in responding to Boehner's resignation.  

Rep. Michael M. Honda, D-Calif., thanked the speaker in a statement for supporting an amendment of his that would bolster funds for teacher-mentoring programs. Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., a breast cancer survivor, said she would "never forget" his co-sponsorship of her bill to educate young women about how to diagnose the disease early on.  

There was also some pity.  

"It cannot be easy for a decent man to be the head of what is becoming the New Know-Nothing Party of anti-immigrant policies and intolerance," said Rep. Luis V. Gutierrez, D-Ill. "I regret the resignation of John Boehner, but I regret more that his Speakership has been marred by the fact that he could not be the leader he sought to be: a leader who understood that strong governance comes with the responsibility to work for the greater good," said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II, D-Mo. "Unfortunately, he was prevented from doing so because of a small group of Tea-Party members in his conference who equate compromise with capitulation.  

"Though many people predicted that this moment would come, reality has set in, and we can only hope that this institution is able to leave the petty partisanship in the past," Cleaver said.

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