Speaker of the House John Boehner resigned from Congress on Friday in an announcement that sent shock waves through the Republican Party. The embattled House Speaker, apparently deeply touched by the recent visit of Pope Francis, said he made the decision to save his party and the institution of Congress. "The first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution that we all love," Boehner said in a statement Friday. "It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution."
The reaction to Boehner's resignation so far has been mixed, highlighting the cracks in the deeply divided Republican Party. While his resignation will likely prevent a government shutdown — for now — the drama is sure to turn to the GOP's internal turmoil. Those Republicans affiliated with the Tea Party have celebrated Boehner's resignation, while the House Speaker's allies came to his defense. All we know is that it's going to be a circus in the next few weeks.
The reaction, too, was split among the GOP presidential candidates, who either used Boehner's announcement as political leverage or congratulated the speaker for his long political career. Here's a look at how the GOP presidential candidates responded to John Boehner's resignation.
Outside the Value Voters Summit on Friday, Trump told reporters that Boehner's resignation was "a good thing." The billionaire businessman, who's still holding the lead in the polls, doubted Boehner's conservative credibility and said the GOP needed somebody "tougher," but stopped short of insulting the speaker.
"I don't think [Boehner's] a conservative," Trump said. "I think it’s time for him [to move on] and the party and everybody."
While Trump was restrained, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) had some fighting words for Boehner Friday morning. Rubio reportedly broke the news of the speaker's resignation to an audience at the Values Voter Summit, eliciting cheers, applause, and even a standing ovation.
"How can it be that we sent a Republican majority to Congress, and they still can't stop our country from sliding in the wrong direction," Rubio asked, moments before announcing that Boehner was stepping down.
"I'm not here to bash anyone, but the time has come to turn the page," Rubio told the audience. "The time has come to turn the page and allow a new generation of leadership in this country."
Unlike Trump and Rubio, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush had some kind words for Boehner.
In an interview with radio host Michael Smerconish on Friday, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie said Boehner's resignation was a long time coming. "There’s been a split between portions of the Republican conference and the speaker over time on certain strategic decisions," Christie said.
The governor did not elaborate on which side of that split he stands, but he did theorize as to why Boehner picked Friday to announce his resignation:
I almost feel that yesterday he saw that with Pope Francis standing in the well of the Congress that just may be a good way to end his congressional career. I don’t know that to be true, but I have to tell you he looked very emotional yesterday and looked to me like somebody who felt like he had accomplished all he wanted to accomplish. And if that’s the case, then good for him. Let him go off and live the rest of the life now knowing that he came to Congress and he accomplished the things that in his heart he believed he wanted to accomplish.
Rising GOP star Ben Carson told The Daily Caller on Friday that is was "time for a change." Although he noted that Boehner had a "distinguished career," Carson seemed to give the speaker a backhanded compliment.
“I think [Boehner's] a go along to get along type of guy," Carson said. "That’s just his nature. We’re in a time, now, where you actually have to put a stake in the ground and sometimes you may not be super popular for doing that."
The most anticipated reaction came from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), who Boehner once called a "jackass" (and probably some other things, in private). While speaking at the Values Voter Summit on Friday, Cruz all but tap danced on the speaker's grave of a political career.
"You want to know how much each of you terrify Washington?" Cruz asked the audience. "Yesterday, John Boehner was Speaker of the House. Y'all come to town and somehow that changes."
Later, Cruz said he worried Boehner "cut deals" with the Democrats on issues such as Planned Parenthood and the Affordable Care Act, in order to prevent a government shutdown. This would be unacceptable, Cruz said:
If it is correct that the speaker, before he resigns, has cut a deal with Nancy Pelosi to fund the Obama administration for the rest of its tenure, to fund Obamacare, to fund executive amnesty, to fund Planned Parenthood, to fund implementation of this Iran deal — and then, presumably, to land in a cushy K Street job after joining with the Democrats to implement all of President Obama's priorities, that is not the behavior one would expect of a Republican speaker of the House.