John Andrew Boehner (/ˈbeɪnər/ BAY-nər;[a] born November 17, 1949) is an American politician who served as the 53rd Speaker of the United States House of Representatives from 2011 to 2015. A member of the Republican Party, Boehner was the U.S. Representative from Ohio's 8th congressional district, serving from 1991 to 2015. The district included several rural and suburban areas near Cincinnati and Dayton.
Boehner previously served as the House Minority Leader from 2007 until 2011, and House Majority Leader from 2006 until 2007. Boehner's almost nine years as the Republican Leader in the House (four years as Minority Leader and nearly five years as Speaker) was the longest consecutive tenure for a Republican Leader in the House since Bob Michel of Illinois served 14 years as House Minority Leader between 1981 and 1995. Boehner resigned from the House of Representatives in October 2015 due to opposition from within the Republican caucus.
In September 2016, Squire Patton Boggs, the third-largest lobbying firm in the U.S., announced that Boehner would join their firm. Also, Boehner will become a board member of Reynolds American, the second biggest tobacco firm in the U.S., for an estimated annual salary of $400,000.
Boehner was born in Reading, Ohio, the son of Mary Anne (née Hall; 1926–1998) and Earl Henry Boehner (1925–1990), the second of twelve children. His father was of German descent and his mother had German and Irish ancestry. He grew up in modest circumstances, having shared one bathroom with his eleven siblings in a two-bedroom house in Cincinnati. He started working at his family's bar at age 8, a business founded by their grandfather Andy Boehner in 1938. He has lived in Southwest Ohio his entire life.
Boehner attended Cincinnati's Moeller High School and was a linebacker on the school's football team, where he was coached by future Notre Dame coach Gerry Faust. Graduating from Moeller in 1968, when United States involvement in the Vietnam War was at its peak, Boehner enlisted in the United States Navy but was honorably discharged after eight weeks because of a bad back. He earned his B.A. in business administration from Xavier University in 1977, becoming the first person in his family to attend college, taking seven years as he held several jobs to pay for his education.
Shortly after his graduation in 1977, Boehner accepted a position with Nucite Sales, a small sales business in the packaging and plastics industry. He was steadily promoted and eventually became president of the firm, resigning in 1990 when he was elected to Congress.
In 1990, Boehner ran against incumbent congressman Buz Lukens, who was under fire for having a sexual relationship with a minor. He defeated Lukens in the primary, taking 49 percent of the vote, and then handily beat his Democratic opponent, Greg Jolivette, in the November election. He was subsequently re-elected to Congress 12 times, each by a substantial margin.
During his freshman year, Boehner was a member of the Gang of Seven which was involved in bringing media attention to the House banking scandal. Later, he, along with Newt Gingrich and several other Republican lawmakers, was one of the engineers of the Contract with America in 1994 that politically helped Republicans during the 1994 congressional elections during which they won the majority in Congress for the first time in four decades.
From 1995 to 1999, Boehner served as House Republican Conference Chairman which is the party caucus for Republicans in the United States House of Representatives. In this post, he was the fourth-ranking House Republican, behind Gingrich, Majority Leader Dick Armey and Majority Whip Tom DeLay. During his time as Conference Chairman, Boehner championed the Freedom to Farm Act that, among other provisions, revised and simplified direct payment programs for crops and eliminated milk price supports through direct government purchases.
In the summer of 1997 several House Republicans, who saw Speaker Newt Gingrich's public image as a liability, attempted to replace him as Speaker. The attempted "coup" began July 9 with a meeting between Republican conference chairman Boehner and Republican leadership chairman Bill Paxon of New York. According to their plan, House Majority Leader Dick Armey, House Majority Whip Tom DeLay, Boehner and Paxon were to present Gingrich with an ultimatum: resign, or be voted out. However, Armey balked at the proposal to make Paxon the new Speaker, and told his chief of staff to warn Gingrich about the coup.
On July 11, Gingrich met with senior Republican leadership to assess the situation. He explained that under no circumstance would he step down. If he was voted out, there would be a new election for Speaker, which would allow for the possibility that Democrats—along with dissenting Republicans—would vote in Dick Gephardt as Speaker. On July 16, Paxon offered to resign his post, feeling that he had not handled the situation correctly. Paxon was the only unelected member of the leadership group, having been appointed to his position by Gingrich.
In 1998, Boehner was ousted as the chairman of the House Republican Conference, after his party lost five congressional seats.
Following the election of President George W. Bush, Boehner was elected as chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee from 2001 until 2006. There he authored several reforms including the Pension Protection Act and a successful school choice voucher program for low-income children in Washington, DC.
Boehner and Senator Ted Kennedy authored the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, which was signed by President George W. Bush in 2002. Boehner said that it was his "proudest achievement" in two decades of public service. Boehner was friends with Kennedy, also a Roman Catholic, and every year they chaired fundraisers for cash-strapped Catholic schools.
In an upset, Boehner was elected by his colleagues to serve as House Majority Leader on February 2, 2006. The election followed Tom DeLay's resignation from the post after being indicted on criminal charges. Boehner campaigned as a reform candidate who wanted to reform the so-called "earmark" process and rein in government spending. He defeated Majority Whip Roy Blunt of Missouri and Representative John Shadegg of Arizona, even though he was considered an underdog candidate to Blunt. In the second round of voting by the House Republican Conference, Boehner defeated Blunt with 122 to 109 votes. Blunt kept his previous position as Majority Whip, the No. 3 leadership position in the House. (There was some confusion on the first ballot for Majority Leader as the first count showed one more vote cast than Republicans present, due to a misunderstanding as to whether the rules allowed Resident Commissioner Luis Fortuño of Puerto Rico to vote).
After the Republicans lost control of the House in the 2006 elections, the House Republican Conference chose Boehner as Minority Leader. While as Majority Leader he was second-in-command behind Speaker Dennis Hastert, as Minority Leader he was the leader of the House Republicans. As such, he was the Republican nominee for Speaker in 2006 and 2008, losing both times to Pelosi.
According to the 2008 Congress.org Power Ranking, Boehner was the 6th most powerful congressman (preceded by Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Hoyer, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Sander M. Levin, Dean of the House John Dingell, and Appropriations Committee Chairman Dave Obey, all Democrats) and the most powerful Republican. As Minority Leader, Boehner served as an ex officio member of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
The Republicans won a majority in the House of Representatives during the 2010 midterm elections, with a net gain of 63 seats. During his solemn victory speech, Boehner broke into tears when talking about "economic freedom, individual liberty and personal responsibility...I hold these values dear because I've lived them...I've spent my whole life chasing the American Dream". November 17, 2010, Boehner was unanimously chosen by the House Republicans as their nominee for Speaker, all but assuring his formal election to the post when the new Congress convened with a Republican majority in January 2011. He received the gavel from outgoing Speaker Pelosi on Wednesday, January 5, 2011. He was the first Speaker from Ohio since fellow Republicans Nicholas Longworth (1925 to 1931) and J. Warren Keifer (1881 to 1883). He was also the first Speaker who has served both as majority and minority floor leader for his party since Texas Democrat Sam Rayburn.
As Speaker, he was still the leader of the House Republicans. However, by tradition, he normally did not take part in debate, although he had the right to do so, and almost never voted from the floor. He was not a member of any House committees during his Speakership.
Boehner appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno on January 23, 2014. When asked by Leno if he would ever run for president, the Speaker said no, adding, "I like to play golf. I like to cut my own grass. I do drink red wine, I smoke cigarettes. And I'm not giving that up to be President of the United States."
In July 2014, Boehner moved forward on a lawsuit to force the President to impose penalties on companies who failed to provide health care coverage for their employees. Boehner had pressed for legislation to delay this mandate the previous year. The third law firm selected finally filed the suit in November 2014, after Boehner criticized Obama's unilateral moves on immigration policy.
On September 25, 2015, Boehner announced that he would step down as Speaker and resign from Congress at the end of October 2015. Boehner's resignation took place after Pope Francis' address to Congress the day before, an event considered by Boehner personally as the highest point in his legislative career. Sources in his office indicated he was stepping aside in the face of increasing discord while trying to manage passage of a continuing resolution to fund the government. Conservative opposition to funding Planned Parenthood as part of the resolution, and stronger threats to Boehner's leadership on account of the controversy, prompted the abrupt announcement. Originally, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California had announced he would run for Speaker and was seen as the prohibitive favorite. On October 8, 2015, McCarthy abruptly announced he would not run for Speaker, citing that he felt he could not effectively lead a fractured Republican Caucus. After McCarthy's announcement, Boehner announced that would stay on as Speaker until a successor was chosen. After initially turning down requests from Republican leaders, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman and 2012 Republican Vice Presidential nominee Paul Ryan of Wisconsin announced he would run for Speaker and had received Boehner's blessing. In his final act as Speaker, Boehner presided over the election to succeed him. After announcing that Ryan had garnered a majority of votes on the House floor, Boehner officially passed off the Speaker's gavel to Ryan on October 29, 2015. Boehner's resignation from Congress became official October 31, 2015, at 11:59 p.m.
In June 1995, Boehner distributed campaign contributions from tobacco industry lobbyists on the House floor as House members were weighing how to vote on tobacco subsidies. In a 1996 documentary by PBS called The People and the Power Game, Boehner said "They asked me to give out a half dozen checks quickly before we got to the end of the month and I complied. And I did it on the House floor, which I regret. I should not have done. It's not a violation of the House rules, but it's a practice that‘s gone on here for a long time that we're trying to stop and I know I'll never do it again." Boehner eventually led the effort to change House rules and prohibit campaign contributions from being distributed on the House floor.
A September 2010 New York Times story said Boehner was "Tightly Bound to Lobbyists" and "He maintains especially tight ties with a circle of lobbyists and former aides representing some of the nation’s biggest businesses, including Goldman Sachs, Google, Citigroup, R.J. Reynolds, MillerCoors and UPS.".
In November 2010, Boehner, along with Minority Whip Eric Cantor, called for the cancellation of an exhibit in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery after he learned that it featured a video by David Wojnarowicz, A Fire in My Belly, that contained an image of a crucifix with ants crawling on it. Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said, "Smithsonian officials should either acknowledge the mistake and correct it, or be prepared to face tough scrutiny beginning in January when the new majority in the House moves [in]."
On January 1, 2013, after passing the fiscal cliff deal, Boehner adjourned the house without passing the $60 million Hurricane Sandy relief bill. Some Representatives, especially from the Northeast and including Republicans as well as Democrats, and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie harshly criticized Boehner. Boehner later promised to pass the bill. However, some commentators praised Boehner for not passing a bill they saw as full of pork barrel.
Many Republicans were ready for a new House of Representatives Chairman following the 2014 mid-term elections. EMC Research reported 60% of participants in their telephone survey wanted a new chairman. Conservatives including Sarah Palin also criticized Boehner for not stopping the 2015 United States federal appropriations ("Cromnibus") spending package after being re-elected, stating "It stinks to high heaven.". WND then launched a campaign to elect a new chairman which gained the support of 500,000 individual letters being sent to congress in protest against Boehner. In the end there were a total of 25 votes against Boehner, 29 were needed in order to choose a new speaker. Boehner responded by removing those who opposed him from influential committees.
A profile in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review said, "On both sides of the aisle, Boehner earns praise for candor and an ability to listen." The Plain Dealer says Boehner "has perfected the art of disagreeing without being disagreeable."
Boehner has been classified as a "hard-core conservative" by OnTheIssues. Although Boehner has a conservative voting record, when he was running for House leadership, religious conservatives in the GOP expressed that they were not satisfied with his positions. According to the Washington Post: "From illegal immigration to sanctions on China to an overhaul of the pension system, Boehner, as chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, took ardently pro-business positions that were contrary to those of many in his party. Religious conservatives – examining his voting record – see him as a policymaker driven by small-government economic concerns, not theirs."
Boehner opposes same-sex marriage, as evidenced by his vote for the Federal Marriage Amendment in both 2004 and 2006. In a letter to the Human Rights Campaign, Boehner stated, "I oppose any legislation that would provide special rights for homosexuals... Please be assured that I will continue to work to protect the idea of the traditional family as one of the fundamental tenets of western civilization."
On May 25, 2006, Boehner issued a statement defending his agenda and attacking his "Democrat friends" such as Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Boehner said regarding national security that voters "have a choice between a Republican Party that understands the stakes and is dedicated to victory, and a Democrat Party with a non-existent national security policy that sheepishly dismisses the challenges of a post-9/11 world and is all too willing to concede defeat on the battlefield in Iraq."
"I’m not qualified to debate the science over climate change," Boehner said at a press conference on May 29, 2014 at which he criticized proposed federal regulations on coal-fired power plants.
In 2011, Boehner opposed the NATO-led military intervention in Libya. In 2015, Boehner supported the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen, saying: "I applaud the Saudis for taking this action to protect their homeland and to protect their own neighborhood."
On September 18, 2008, Congressman Boehner attended a closed meeting with congressional leaders, then-Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke, and was urged to craft legislation to help financially troubled banks. That same day (trade effective the next day), Congressman Boehner cashed out of an equity mutual fund.
On October 3, 2008 Boehner voted in favor of the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), believing that the enumerated powers grant Congress the authority to "purchase assets and equity from financial institutions in order to strengthen its financial sector."
Boehner has been highly critical of several initiatives by the Democratic Congress and President Barack Obama, including the "cap and trade" plan that Boehner says would hurt job growth in his congressional district and elsewhere. He opposed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and said that, if Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 elections, they would do whatever it takes to stop the act. One option would be to defund the administrative aspect of the Act, not paying "one dime" to pay the salaries of the workers who would administer the plan. He also led an opposition to the 2009 stimulus and to Obama's first budget proposal, promoting instead an alternative economic recovery plan and a Republican budget (authored by Ranking Rep. Paul Ryan, R-WI). He has advocated for an across-the-board spending freeze, including entitlement programs. Boehner favors making changes in Social Security, such as by raising the retirement age to 70 for people who have at least 20 years until retirement, as well as tying cost-of-living increases to the consumer price index rather than wage inflation, and limiting payments to those who need them.
In 2013, Boehner led his caucus in a strategy to hold Defense spending hostage in order to avoid reducing the deficit with revenue increases.
As Republican House Leader, Boehner is a Democratic target for criticism of Republican views and political positions. In July 2010, President Barack Obama began singling out Boehner for criticism during his speeches. In one speech, Obama mentioned Boehner's name nine times and accused him of believing that police, firefighters, and teachers were jobs "not worth saving."
|1990||Gregory Jolivette||63,584||38.9%||John Boehner||99,955||61.1%|
|1992||Fred Sennet||62,033||26%||John Boehner||176,362||74%|
|1994||No candidate||John Boehner||148,338||100%|
|1996||Jeffrey Kitchen||52,912||26%||John Boehner||127,979||70%||William Baker||Natural Law||8,613||4%|
|1998||John W. Griffin||52,912||29%||John Boehner||127,979||71%|
|2000||John G. Parks||66,293||26%||John Boehner||179,756||71%||David Shock||Libertarian||7,254||3%|
|2002||Jeff Hardenbrook||49,444||29%||John Boehner||119,947||71%|
|2004||Jeff Hardenbrook||90,574||31%||John Boehner||201,675||69%|
|2006||Mort Meier||77,640||36%||John Boehner||136,863||64%|
|2008||Nicholas Von Stein||95,510||32%||John Boehner||202,063||68%|
|2010||Justin Coussoule||65,883||30%||John Boehner||142,731||66%||David Harlow||Libertarian||5,121||2%||James Condit||Constitution||3,701||2%|
|2012||No candidate||John Boehner||246,378||99.2%||James Condit||Constitution||1,938||0.8%|
|2014||Tom Poetter||51,534||27.4%||John Boehner||126,539||67.2%||James Condit||Constitution||10,257||5.4%|
|Republican||Rand Paul [d]||1||<1.0%|
|Republican||Colin Powell [d]||1||<1.0%|
|Republican||Jeff Sessions [d]||1||<1.0%|
The top 10 contributors (not including political parties or other candidates) to John Boehner's campaign for the period of January 1, 2011 – December 31, 2012 represent a variety of interests.
|Paulson & Co.||$81,050|
|American Electric Power||$54,450|
|Moore Capital Management||$51,500|
|Swisher International Group||$50,000|
|Chicago Mercantile Exchange||$39,200|
Boehner made headlines in April 2016 when he referred to Republican Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz as "Lucifer in the flesh" in an interview at Stanford University. On May 12, after Donald Trump became the presumptive Republican nominee, Boehner's support for him became public, though he distanced himself on several policies and expressed satisfaction with Cruz not securing the nomination: "Thank God the guy from Texas didn't win." On February 23, 2017, Boehner predicted Republicans would "fix" the Affordable Care Act and give it a different name as opposed to their stated intent to repeal and replace.
In reporting his pending retirement, Politico summarized his Speakership:
Paul Kane in the Washington Post emphasizes how none of the "big deals" he sought were ever reached:
Furthermore, Kane argues, Boehner's persona alienated conservative Republicans who demanded more vigorous attacks on Obama and instead perceived, "a country club Republican who loved to play 18 holes of golf and drink merlot afterward while cutting deals. In an era of shouting and confrontation, on talk radio or cable TV, Boehner’s easygoing style did not fit."