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John Boehner Steps Down As House Speaker

Boehner says his farewell, box of tissues at the ready (from YouTube video provided by Boehner's office)
Boehner says his farewell, box of tissues at the ready (from YouTube video provided by Boehner's office)

By ideastream's Brian Bull

After four years as Speaker of the House, Ohio Congressman John Boehner formally stepped down today. 

In a rare show of bipartisanship, hundreds of congressional delegates rose to applaud John Boehner as he relinquished his top leadership position on Capitol Hill.  With a box of Kleenex at the ready, the 65-year-old Cincinnatian reflected on his childhood as he said farewell.

“My colleagues, I’ve described my life as a chase for the American Dream," said Boehner. "That chase began at the bottom of a hill just off the main drag in Reading, Ohio right outside Cincinnati.  At the top of the hill was a small house with a big family.  The hill had twists, the hill had turns, even a few tears.. nothing wrong with that," he said, wiping away tears as many in the audience began to laugh. 

Boehner was first elected to Congress in 1990 and helped draw up Speaker Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America” four years later.  He was elected Speaker of the House in 2011. 

University of Cincinnati political science professor David Niven says Boehner did his best to keep the integrity of the office.

“He’s certainly leaving a hole in Ohio’s political structure," says Niven.  "It is a…unusual place of prestige to have one of the major constitutional offices held in your state. It’s not something that’s happened very often for Ohio.  And while he probably didn’t accomplish any signature item for the state, he was there to protect his state from being the short end of anything Congress might do, and certainly that will be felt in the years ahead.”

This morning, as he handed over his gavel on the floor of the U.S. House, Boehner reflected on his childhood delivering newspapers and working in his father’s bar in Cincinnati. 

"And y’know, our city takes its name from a great Roman general, Cincinnatus -- a farmer who answered the call of his nation to lead, and then surrendered his power and returned to his plow.” 

Boehner served 12 terms in Congress.  Tomorrow is his last day in office.