House Speaker John Boehner said he had planned more than a year ago to step down from his leadership position, but he decided to remain on the job after his second in command lost a primary election.
The Ohio Republican said he decided to stick around for another year after House Minority Whip Eric Cantor suffered a surprise defeat, but he decided to announce his decision after Pope Francis addressed the U.S. Congress.
“It was never about the pope,” Boehner insisted, although he admitted the pontiff’s visit had affected him.
He described a private “emotional moment” he shared Thursday afternoon with Pope Francis, and he said the pontiff praised his commitment to children and education.
But he said he was deeply moved and humbled when the pope asked him to pray for him.
Boehner admitted that growing dissatisfaction with his leadership led him to his decision, which he hoped would preserve the integrity of the U.S. House of Representatives.
“This turmoil that’s been churning for a couple of months, it’s not good for the institution,” he said.
Boehner said he decided to make the announcement Friday after his morning prayers, and he felt good with the decision as he continued his routine.
He arrived at a news conference Friday afternoon singing “Zippity Doo-Dah,” and he sang it again
Boehner, who is known for crying during emotional moments, briefly teared up when he thanked his constituents and reflected on all the voters he’d met in nearly 35 years in office.
“I’m doing this for the right reasons, and the right things that will happen as a result,” he said, before walking away from the podium.