One Idaho congressman counted outgoing House Speaker John Boehner among his closest colleagues.
Another sought his ouster in 2013 and feuded with him repeatedly.
Both measured their words Friday in statements after Boehner’s surprise decision to step down as speaker and resign from Congress at the end of October.
“Leadership on the national stage looks appealing to many, but those who step into his shoes do not have an enviable task ahead,” said Idaho Rep. Mike Simpson, a close Boehner friend and ally.
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Boehner foe Raul Labrador said, “Though I differed with Speaker Boehner on the pace of reform, I respect and admire him.”
A frequent antagonist who publicly clashed with Boehner over leadership and policy, Labrador demurred on talk of succession but said he was “committed to supporting leaders who will keep our promise to the American people to fight for real change in Washington.”
House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California is the likely successor in many insiders’ eyes, but it might not fall that way.
“Good leadership requires wisdom, humility, a willingness to listen to those who might have a different perspective, and the courage to do the right thing,” Simpson said. “This is especially difficult when you are leading a fractious party and divided nation, but this is how Speaker Boehner led.”
The Ohio Republican fought with conservatives within his party for practically his entire tenure. The latest flashpoint came over federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Conservative Republicans threatened to shut down the government by blocking a needed spending bill unless Planned Parenthood’s funds were cut.
Following Boehner’s announcement, however, House Republicans announced agreement on a bill that will keep the government open. Their efforts to defund the women’s health organization were stymied in the Senate.
MET WITH SPEAKER
Labrador had notable clashes with Boehner and helped lead an unsuccessful attempt to remove him as speaker in 2013, igniting a very public feud with Simpson.
In 2014, Labrador challenged McCarthy for majority leader when Eric Cantor lost his seat in a stunning primary defeat. And earlier this year, Labrador was grudging in his support for Boehner as speaker, calling his vote “not an endorsement of his past leadership.”
“The votes were simply not there to defeat the speaker,” he said then.
Labrador was one of five conservative Republican House members who met with Boehner on Thursday. Another of the group, Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, said Friday that the House members told Boehner they had lost confidence in his leadership and would fight to oust him.
Mulvaney said Boehner sought Thursday’s meeting with the House Freedom Caucus to discuss Planned Parenthood. He reportedly said he would allow a separate vote on defunding Planned Parenthood, but that measure was not expected to pass and would have been vetoed anyway.
“We told him we were disappointed, frustrated and angry,” Mulvaney said. “John didn’t hear what we were saying.”
Mulvaney said the group did not ask for Boehner to step down as speaker or resign. His resignation “came as a complete surprise,” he said.
Statesman wire services contributed.