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House Speaker John Boehner Says Goodbye

Boehner of Ohio held up a box of tissues as he prepared to speak Thursday.
Andrew Harnik
Boehner of Ohio held up a box of tissues as he prepared to speak Thursday.

Speaker John Boehner gave farewell remarks on the House floor Thursday, picking up a box of tissues as he prepared to speak, a nod to his tendency to cry in emotional moments.

Officially announcing his intent to resign as speaker and the representative from Ohio, Boehner said he leaves "with no regrets, no burdens. If anything, I leave the way I started, just a regular guy, humbled by the chance to do a big job."

He spoke for 10 minutes about his life and rise in government, accomplishments in Congress and the role of the body.

Among his accomplishments, he noted "we banned earmarks all together. Sorry." He said he's proud of making the institution "more open to the people."

Boehner also said he's come to realize that the battle over the size, scope and cost of government "has been going on for more than 200 years" and that "real change takes time."

He urged his colleagues to believe in the "long, slow struggle" and, thanking his family, reminded them to "remember, you can't do a big job alone."

He thanked his fellow lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Boehner said they'd done more work across the aisle in the past five years than he'd seen in his 25 years in the institution. That cooperation ultimately cost him his job, as hard right conservatives felt he was too willing to compromise with Democrats.

Boehner also took the opportunity to quip about some of his colleagues' attire. "As much as I enjoyed working with all of you, some of you could still learn to dress better. You know who you are."

He did find use of that Kleenex as he concluded his remarks, talking about his humble beginning at the "bottom of the hill" in his Ohio town. "Never forget, we're the luckiest people on the earth. ... Anything can happen if you're willing to make the necessary sacrifices in life."

NPR's Susan Davis spoke with Boehner on Wednesday, reporting that he doesn't seem to have any second thoughts about this being the right time to exit. He was particularly candid about how his five years as speaker were some of the "loneliest" in his congressional career.

( You can listen to 10 clips from that exit interview here.)

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