John Boehner, you just announced your resignation as speaker of the House! What are you going to do next?
Go to the Catholic University of America, apparently.
(Hey, Disneyland it is not, perhaps, but neither is Congress the Super Bowl.)
Boehner’s announcement didn’t just happen to coincide with the Pope’s visit – it also took place a day before his annual staff picnic, an affair that drew about 200 current and former members of “Team Boehner” (some were sporting shirts to that effect) and their families to a big white tent in a quiet corner of the university’s campus.
There were corn hole games, and a moon bounce set up for the kids. Cotton candy and popcorn were on offer for any takers. And of course, there was a considerable supply of merlot.
And there amidst them was a tanned and casual-looking Boehner, wearing a white-and-lavender checkered shirt, navy shorts, and brown loafers with no socks, looked relaxed milling about and chatting with his extended family of staffers.
The informal affair was not intended to serve as a goodbye party, as it was planned months ahead of time – and, as Boehner told reporters this week, he only decided when he woke up Friday morning that he would definitely resign his speakership, announcing his decision mere hours later.
But in a way, the picnic is an early bookend to the Ohio Republican’s term as speaker, just as it closes out what is arguably one of the most emotional weeks of Boehner’s tenure.
The speaker tipped his hat to the Pope Friday morning, noting that after listening to Francis’s comments about living by the Golden Rule, Boehner began to think about accelerating his plans to step down. The speaker also said his constituents and others he’d met along the way were what made his tenure in Congress so fascinating.
But it was his staff he thanked most directly for enabling his national political career over the last quarter-century.
“I’ve succeeded, in large part, because I put a staff together and a team together, many of which have been with me for a long time,” Boehner said at Friday’s press conference. “And without a great staff you can’t be a great member, and you certainly can’t be a great speaker.”