Speaker John Boehner told GOP lawmakers on Friday he will resign at the end of October.
The embattled Ohio Republican will resign from both his Speakership and his House seat, he told GOP lawmakers at a closed-door conference meeting.
“Speaker Boehner believes that the first job of any Speaker is to protect this institution and, as we saw yesterday with the Holy Father, it is the one thing that unites and inspires us all,” a Boehner aide said.
The aide said the Speaker had only been planning to serve through the end of last year but decided to stay on after then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) suffered a stunning primary loss.
“The Speaker believes putting members through prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution,” the aide said.
“He is proud of what this majority has accomplished, and his Speakership, but for the good of the Republican Conference and the institution, he will resign the Speakership and his seat in Congress, effective October 30.”
Boehner’s decision comes as Congress is struggling to find a way to fund the government — and his leadership has become a part of that struggle. Conservatives unhappy with his style have repeatedly threatened to seek to unseat him.
They’ve specifically suggested that they will be watching his steps on a government funding plan, and demanded that the Speaker take action to halt federal funds for Planned Parenthood as part of a measure to keep the government open.
GOP leaders in both the House and the Senate have criticized that strategy, saying it could lead to a shutdown that would hurt Republicans in the 2016 elections.
The latest spending fight is just a microcosm of Boehner’s long-standing problems in running the Republican conference, which has repeatedly bucked his direction.
His announcement also follows one of the biggest moments of his career: Pope Francis’s visit to Capitol Hill and address to Congress. It was long a goal of Boehner’s to have a pope address the Congress, and he had difficulty on Thursday keeping his emotions in check.
Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) emerged from the private House meeting to say that members were “stunned” when Boehner announced his decision.
“Everybody’s still in sort of a state of shock,” he said.
According to Mica, Boehner told members that he thought opposition to his role as Speaker was becoming a distraction from broader policy debates.
“He just does not want to become the issue,” said Mica. “Some people have tried to make him the issue, both in Congress and outside.
“We’ll just have to regroup. We faced challenges before.”
Small Business Committee Chairman Steve Chabot, a fellow Ohio Republican and close Boehner ally, described the room as “somber.”
Read more: The Hill