Arizona Republicans were quick to celebrate after U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner announced this morning that he would resign at the end of October.
Whether through tweets or formal statements, the gist of their statements was: “Thanks for your service, but step aside and make way for some true conservative leadership in Congress.”
Boehner, the Ohio Republican who has served in Congress since 1990 and as House Speaker since 2011, has come under increasing pressure and scrutiny from the more Conservative elements of his party in recent years. The Maricopa County Republican Party called him “Democrat-lite” in a statement today, for instance, and said he lacked the “courage and grit necessary to succeed on behalf of the American people.”
Boehner's “tenure will be looked upon a void in Republican leadership,” Jake Hoffman, spokesman for the county GOP told New Times. “He's going to leave office, and he's going to be poorly remembered — if he's remembered at all. He accomplished very little, and what he did accomplish is inconsequential, at best.
“I'm sure John Boehner, as a person, is a wonderful man,” he added, “but [this is] about him as a politician and his track record.”
Hoffman went on to explain that Congress “can't have someone who is unwilling to stand up against Obamacare, Planned Parenthood, Obama's illegal executive action [giving amnesty to some undocumented immigrants], freedom of the Internet – any number of issues that affect the working class and everyday citizens . . . We are excited he's stepping down and we believe it will bring positive change, though we would like to see him step down much more quickly.”
As the names of at least a dozen possible replacements float around Washington, the Maricopa County GOP primarily is concerned with electing “a speaker who will represent the people.”
As such, leaders of the group say they would support anyone in the House Freedom Caucus, though they're hoping Republicans take a good, hard look at what Arizona's members of the group — Congressmen Matt Salmon, Trent Franks, David Schweikert, and Paul Gosar — have to offer.
“We have four incredible, outspoken candidates right here in Arizona, and they would all be exceptional possibilities,” Hoffman said. “They understand [and stand firm on] what they believe and they work tirelessly to actually listen to the constituents in their communities.”
Out of the four, so far only Salmon and Gosar have issued statements about Boehner's resignation. Each thanked him for relinquishing his position before launching into statements about the need for strong conservative leadership.
“The American people have been calling for a return to regular order and a break from the status quo in D.C. ever since they elected a Republican majority back in 2010,” Gosar said. “Unfortunately, the actions from Republican leadership did not reflect the will of the American people and a change was clearly needed.”
“As the leader of the Republican Party in Congress, the Speaker must be willing to fight the Obama administration's dangerous, immoral, and sometimes illegal actions using every tool our Constitution provides. This is what the majority of Americans want their leaders in Congress to do, and ultimately, Boehner could no longer provide the leadership necessary to do this,” Salmon concluded.
While many conservative Republicans in Arizona are eager to get one of their own in the Speaker's chair, others in the state are worried about what this will mean for both the impending government shutdown and the long-term ability of Congress to function:
"With the resignation of Speaker Boehner, the GOP is not just tilting to the right, it has turned over control to the most extreme elements of the Tea Party,” Matt Heinz, Democratic Congressional candidate said earlier today. “Intolerance, dysfunction, and government shutdown have found a welcoming home with Congressional Republicans [and] the GOP has proven itself incapable of governing, and the real victims are ordinary American families who are looking for common-sense solutions to the many challenges we face."
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The latest Gallup public opinion poll shows Congress has a 14 percent approval rating, and if the multitude of political rallies in Phoenix this past summer are any indication, Arizona residents – whether they support Donald Trump, Ben Carson, or Bernie Sanders – are fed up with government gridlock.
When asked if electing a more conservative Speaker of the House would cause an even greater erosion in bipartisanship, Hoffman of the Maricopa County GOP party says the opposite would occur.
He believes leaders like Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are failing because they always “give in to Democrats” and because “they're attacking people in their own party.
“The inability to compromise is not a right-left issue; it's a right-on-right issue,” he adds.
“I believe if you had someone in there who is principled and outspoken, you actually see more things move forward in Congress.”