In a heartfelt farewell address to his colleagues on the House floor Thursday morning, Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) reflected on his life and his 25 years in politics.
"I leave the way I started, just a regular guy humbled by the chance to do a big job," Boehner said with tears in his eyes.
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After serving as Speaker of the House for almost five years, Boehner stepped aside, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) was elected shortly after to assume the role. Boehner, in a major surprise, announced his retirement as a Tea Party challenge to his position looked increasingly likely. Many labeled Boehner a noble warrior who chose to "fall on his sword" rather than watch his caucus and his party turn on itself.
Rather than watching the House battle itself and risk another government shutdown, Boehner cut a budget deal with the White House on his way out so Ryan would not have to worry about facing the troubles he faced as Speaker for at least two years. He referred to his deal as "cleaning out the barn" so that the House could avoid chaos and return to "the people's work."
Boehner's retirement plans were put at risk when House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) withdrew himself from consideration for the speakership after being unable to court the Freedom Caucus. Following a few days of disarray, House Republicans settled on Ryan to be their new leader. With his replacement secured, the soon to be 66-year-old Boehner will return home to Ohio, where he said he will play a lot more golf.
"I’ve described my life as a chase for the American Dream," Boehner told the full chamber at the conclusion of his speech.
"Never forget we're the luckiest people on the earth. In America, you can do anything that you're willing to work for, willing to work hard at and things—anything can happen if you're willing to make the necessary sacrifices in life. If you falter, and you will, you can just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and go do it again because hope always springs eternal and if you do the right things for the right reasons, good things will happen. And this, too, can really happen to you. God bless you and God bless our great country."