House Speaker John Boehner is set to leave the House on October 30, and before departing at the end of a 24-year career, he could leave his Republican colleagues with a number of parting gifts.
Boehner’s resignation has sent Republicans scrambling to determine who will fill his empty spot, as well as the remaining three leadership positions—majority leader, majority whip, and conference chair—should there be movement among the House’s current ranks.
But before the two-term speaker leaves the House, Boehner, of Ohio, hinted that he’s preparing to confront an agenda of policy issues that has already split House Republicans.
“I don’t want to leave my successor a dirty barn,” he said on CBS’ Face the Nation. “I want to clean the barn up a little bit before the next person gets here.”
The Ohio Republican first must address a government spending bill before the fast approaching Sept. 30 deadline.
Conservatives are calling on the House speaker to use the continuing resolution to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding. A spending bill defunding the group for one year failed in the Senate last week, setting Boehner up to introduce a “clean” continuing resolution—one that does not address funding for Planned Parenthood—that funds the government through Dec. 11 and avoids a government shutdown.
House conservatives argue that the speaker’s resignation shouldn’t impact the House’s agenda.
“Speaker Boehner’s announcement does not change the fact that the American people want their representatives to do what they said they would do when they came to Washington in the first place,” Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, said in a statement to The Daily Signal. “We need to stop funding Planned Parenthood and move that funding to clinics providing more comprehensive services to women.”
Jordan serves as the chairman of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of more than 40 conservative lawmakers in the House.
In addition to the stopgap legislation, Boehner could also address four other policies: a potential reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank, the expiring Highway Trust Fund, a debt ceiling extension, and a tax extenders package.
The Export-Import Bank, which provided taxpayer-backed loans and loan guarantees to foreign countries and companies for the purchase of U.S. products, expired at the end of June.
House Republicans are split on the 81-year-old agency, with conservatives arguing that it is an engine of corporate welfare. Other GOP lawmakers believe that the bank creates jobs in the U.S. and helps small businesses.
Supporters of Ex-Im on both sides of the aisle have discussed attaching a measure reauthorizing it to a piece of must-pass legislation, such as a highway funding bill. Republicans are also looking to the continuing resolution as a vehicle for bringing the bank back to life.
“For the good of the economy and the middle-class jobs at risk, I am calling on the leadership in the House of Representatives to support the inclusion of a long-term reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank in the upcoming continuing resolution,” Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., wrote in an op-ed today.
For Ex-Im opponents, Boehner’s resignation doesn’t change their goal of keeping the bank shuttered. However, it does raise concerns.
“We need to make sure that the Ex-Im Bank is not resurrected,” Jordan said. “We need to maintain the current federal budget levels. It’s time for our party to stand unified in our fight against government excess and for ordinary Americans.”
Opponents are bolstered in their commitment not to reauthorize the bank by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Whip Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who have vocally opposed Ex-Im’s reauthorization and are aspiring to move up among leadership ranks.
Highway Trust Fund
Congress has until Oct. 29 to renew the Highway Trust Fund, a system that pays for much of the nation’s roads, rails, and bridges.
The House passed a three-month patch to address the expiring fund in July and is now looking at a six-year extension.
The Highway Trust Fund is considered a piece of “must-pass” legislation, and lawmakers have less than 16 days left before the patch expires.
In an interview with CQ Roll Call, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he is expecting the House to pass its own version of the highway bill before Oct. 29, leaving both chambers time to meet and agree on legislation.
Earlier this year, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew sent Congress a letter warning that the debt ceiling would be reached by the end of October.
To prevent the government from defaulting on its debt, Congress could pass an increase to the government’s borrowing limit.
Boehner previously negotiated a debt ceiling increase in 2013 to end a two-week government shutdown.
In the past, conservatives have pushed back against increases to the debt ceiling, particularly those that don’t include deficit-reduction measures, and they continue to oppose such increases.
“The source of frustration is $19 trillion in debt, $100 trillion [in] unfunded liabilities, less than 2 percent growth, and college kids can’t find jobs,” Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., said in an interview with The Daily Signal’s Josh Siegel. “And then how are you going to blow the budget caps this year and raise the debt ceiling and explain that to the American people?”
Last year, Congress passed a one-year, $41.6-billion “tax extenders” package, a group of more than 50 tax breaks that expired in 2013 and were restored retroactively in 2014.
Before Boehner’s departure at the end of October, he’s likely to push for Congress to make the tax extenders package permanent and also allow for filers to claim the tax breaks for the 2014 tax filing season.