We're rapidly approaching the end of an era in Washington, D.C. On Friday, Speaker of the House John Boehner announced that he'll be resigning in October, bring his quarter-century-long political career to a close. As such, it's a fine time to look back at some of the Ohio congressman's greatest hits, so to speak, those moments that'll ring throughout the House chamber for all time. For example, here's a particularly impassioned, slightly goofy example: do you remember John Boehner's Obamacare meltdown, his fiery denunciation of the reform bill delivered prior to the House's vote in 2010?
It absolutely seized the political media's attention for a little while, owing to its verbal edginess. Boehner posed a number of rhetorical questions about the Affordable Care Act legislation: Was it done openly? With transparency? Without backroom deals? Then, he answered the questions himself, crying out, "Hell no you can't!" The video of the speech is noteworthy for the din it caused in the House chamber, a mishmash of supportive Republicans and seemingly none-too-pleased Democrats.
Here's the video of Boehner's fiery speech; it was delivered on March 21, 2010, the day the House would vote to pass the bill, sending it to the President's desk for signature.
Today, this body, this institution, enshrined in the first article of the Constitution by our founding fathers as a sign of the importance they placed on this House, should be looking with pride on this legislation, and our work. But it is not so. No, to say—today we're standing here looking at a health care bill that no one in this body believes is satisfactory. Today we stand here amidst the wreckage of what was once the respect and honor that this House was held in by our fellow citizens. And we all know why it is so. We have failed to listen to America. And we have failed to reflect the will of our constituents.
... And look at how this bill was written. Can you say it was done openly? With transparency and accountability? Without backroom deals and struck behind closed doors? Hidden from the people? Hell no you can't! Have you read the bill? Have you read the reconciliation bill? Have you read the manager's amendment? Hell no you haven't!
... Shame on us. Shame on this body. Shame on each and every one of you who substitute your will, and your desires above those of your fellow countrymen.
In March 2010, this was the rarest of red meat that the Republicans had to offer their House membership, as well as their base — the bill's passage was all but assured by the time Boehner took to the House floor. The speech was clearly intended to grab attention, and to make Boehner out to be a strong, gravitas-laden statesman, pounding on the shame and dereliction of a Congress run amok.
It didn't necessarily help that he sounded a little off while delivering it, but it had the desired impact all the same — less than a year later, he was clutching the Speaker's gavel, the result of a dominant midterm election cycle that swung control of the House back to the GOP. Since then, Boehner's conservative bona fides within his own party have been under nearly constant challenge, thanks to the advent of the Tea Party, among other things.
But on that dramatic day in 2010, Boehner's yelling denunciations thrust him into the center of the news cycle and helped spur him to new heights. You may not have agreed with his demagogic attitude towards the health care battle, sure, but you couldn't deny his evident passion.