POLITICS
09/29/2015 11:51 am ET Updated Sep 29, 2015

Boehner Vows To Leave Successor With Clean Slate

The speaker says he doesn't want to "burden" the next leader with lingering tough issues.

WASHINGTON -- House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) signaled Tuesday that he will do his best to get major lingering pieces of legislation passed before he departs next month, leaving the next House leader with a clean slate.

"Whether it's protecting life, whether it's dealing with the problems of Obamacare, whether it's keeping the government open, we're here to do the people's work," Boehner told reporters after meeting with his members in the morning on Capitol Hill. "There's a lot on our plate this week."

 

Boehner's push could leave his heir apparent, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), in an uncomfortable spot if Boehner pushes too hard and some right-wing conservatives feel they are steamrolled.

But Boehner insisted he would forge ahead, with the first bit of business being to immediately pass a bill to keep the government open until Dec. 11, unencumbered with conservative proposals to defund Planned Parenthood.

"There's a number of issues we're going to try to deal with over the coming month, but I'm not going to change my decision-making process in any way," Boehner said. "It's just a matter of if there's a way to get some things done, so I don't burden my successor, I'm going to get them finished."

Among the items on the to-do list are passing a long-term highway bill, raising the nation's debt limit and extending expiring tax breaks.

Leaving his successor facing an angry contingent of tea party Republicans did not seem to be among Boehner's fears. 

"I spend every day trying to do the right things for the right reasons, and I'm not going to be any different tomorrow than I am today," Boehner said. "I'm not worried at all."

While McCarthy is the leading candidate to replace Boehner, many of those conservatives who had been agitating to get rid of Boehner are not necessarily committed to him, and other candidates could still emerge.

Boehner said he wanted to see a new election for leadership sooner rather than later, but added that it would be up to members.

Asked how he would be different, McCarthy didn't offer specifics, except to joke, "I won't be as tan."

Beyond that, he praised Boehner, and used language similar to the outgoing speaker's in saying his first job would be helping people. He did seem to acknowledge the anger that continues to simmer in the GOP base.

"I know what's going on across the country. And I'm concerned about what we hear," McCarthy said.  "A lot of people in Washington are concerned about power and institutions. I'm concerned about making a difference in everybody's lives."

But he also didn't hold out hope for immediate change.

"We want to make sure that we're closer to the people -- that they feel this is their government, they're in charge, and we serve them," McCarthy said. "Now, that's not easy, and it won't change overnight, but that's our mission."

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) didn't seem too concerned about passing the major pieces of lingering business in time for Boehner's Oct. 30 departure. But he focused on December, when the short-term government funding bill would run out.

"How much of that could come together before Speaker Boehner leaves, I have no earthly idea," Mcconnell told reporters in the afternoon. "But we have a number of different things that need to be addressed, and the deadline is Dec. 11."

Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.

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