John Boehner’s surprise announcement last weekend that he will resign shocked the political world. The loudest reactions were cheers from conservative Republicans, especially those gathered at the Values Voter Summit. But I think their delight is premature, perhaps grossly so.
There are two main reasons. First, Boehner was actually quite a bit more effective at advancing a right-of-center agenda than his critics will admit. There’s no guarantee that his likely successor, Kevin McCarthy of California, shares these skills (especially since McCarthy has been in Washington for less than a decade).
Second, the underlying issue that led to Boehner’s resignation has not dissipated. If anything, now that conservatives have been rewarded with a scalp, it has been amplified. The next speaker, who may or may not share Boehner’s skills, is going into this job knowing there is a determined minority in his caucus that is willing to deny him his job. This sword of Damocles will almost certainly affect his decisions as he attempts to lead an unruly caucus.