WASHINGTON, Sept. 25 (UPI) -- On a day when he was only supposed to pitch a strategy to fellow Republicans to avert a government shutdown, House Speaker John Boehner dropped a bombshell: He's out.
The Ohio congressman abruptly announced his resignation from the House of Representatives Friday. First, the word came from aides and then from Boehner himself at a Friday afternoon news conference.
"Last night I started to think about this, and this morning I woke up and I said my prayers, as I always do, and I decided, you know, 'today is the day I'm going to do this,'" Boehner said, adding a point of emphasis that suggested certainty of his decision. "As simple as that."
"So, this morning I informed my colleagues that I would resign from the speakership and resign from Congress at the end of October," he added.
Boehner's main reason for stepping down, he said, is the ongoing struggle within the Republican party -- a dynamic underscored by the crowded GOP field for president.
"Listen, my mission every day is to fight for a smaller, less costly and more accountable government," he continued. "I'm proud of what we accomplished, but more than anything, my first job as Speaker is to protect the institution ... It has become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution."
Boehner said his decision's coming on the heels of a meeting with Pope Francis this week is no coincidence.
"Yesterday, we witnessed the awesome sight of Pope Francis addressing the greatest legislative body in the world. And I hope that we will all heed his call to live by the Golden Rule," Boehner said.
The House leader said he originally planned to resign at the end of 2014, but the unexpected defeat of House Majority Leader and Virginia Rep. Eric Cantor prompted him to delay his plans by a year.
"I decided in November 2010, when I was elected Speaker, that serving two [two-year] terms would have been plenty. But in June of last year it became clear that the majority leader [Cantor] lost his election, I, frankly, didn't believe it was right for me to leave at the end of last year," he said, noting that at that time he changed his plans to leave at the end of 2015.
Boehner was elected to his freshman term in Congress in 1990 after a stint in the Ohio House of Representatives, and later served as Chairman of the House Republican Conference and the House Education Committee. In 2006, he became House Majority Leader -- then House Minority leader a year later, after Democrats regained the majority.
In 2011, Boehner became the 61st House Speaker after Republicans picked up a whopping 63 seats in the 2010 mid-terms -- and was elected again to the leadership post, narrowly, in 2012. The gravelly-voiced congressman served as a lightning rod for the Republican party on numerous issues -- such as President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act, its mandate that all employers provide coverage for emergency contraception, and same-sex marriage.
Boehner, who became just the third House Speaker from the state of Ohio, credited his family as a major part of his drive in public office.
"It's one thing for me to have to endure it -- I've got thick skin -- but, you know, the girls and my wife have had to put up with a lot over the years," he said, appearing to get choked up at the remark. "Really, it's been wonderful."
Obama, who has often been on the other side of Boehner on many issues, acknowledged the Speaker's service during a White House briefing Friday.
"It took me by surprise," Obama said, adding that he telephoned Boehner upon hearing the news. "John Boehner is a good man. He is a patriot, he cares deeply about the House ... he cares about his constituents, and he cares about America."
"We have obviously had a lot of disagreements, and politically we are at different ends of the spectrum, but I'll tell you he has always conducted himself with courtesy and civility with me, " he continued. "Maybe most importantly, he's somebody who understands that in government, in governance, you don't get 100 percent of what you want."
The biggest news from Boehner on Friday was supposed to be a pitch to members of his party in the House a strategy to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding without the threat of a government shutdown.
About 30 GOP lawmakers want to attach the issue to a spending bill that needs to pass by Sept. 30 to keep the government operating. And because that stipulation would certainly meet resistance from Democrats, the government might not have the capital to continue operating beyond Oct. 1.
Boehner has said a shutdown would be disastrous for the Republican Party ahead of an election year. Republicans, consequently, had threatened to oust him as House leader if he sides with Democrats.
"It has been an honor to serve," Boehner tweeted after the news conference. "God bless this great country that has given me -- the son of a bar owner from Cincinnati -- the chance to serve."