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Former Rep. Rogers On Longtime Colleague Boehner's Resignation


Former Representative Mike Rogers, a Republican of Michigan, served on the House Intelligence Committee. He is with us on the line, so obviously, good morning Mr. Rogers.

MIKE ROGERS: Good morning. How are you?

MONTAGNE: Yes, obviously, you served alongside John Boehner. Let me ask you this. Criticism from conservatives. More than criticism - they're jubilant that he's leaving. Is that fair to Speaker Boehner?

ROGERS: Oh, I don't think so. When they go back and look at his record, I think they're going to find that he was more than supportive of a conservative issue. And to say that John Boehner didn't govern as a conservative I think is probably inaccurate. I think his tactics sometimes baffled them, as it did many in the House, for a long time. But you have to remember this about the speaker - he was always an institutional guy, meaning he believed in the institution of Congress and its importance. And this notion of speaker of the House he took very seriously, meaning, you have a party leader. That's what the majority leader is. And then you have the speaker of the House, who is supposed to keep the institution functioning. He believed in that passionately. And so I think that's where some of that conflict came, and I think where many people thought he may have been abandoning their conservative principles when in fact he was trying to manage the advancement in administration in the House of Representatives.

MONTAGNE: And also I think from the point of view of conservatives - some conservatives - reaching across the aisle, in a sense, even though I don't see that the speaker would've seen it that way.

ROGERS: I guess I'm not sure what you mean by that. I mean, do you mean they were upset that he did reach across the aisle?


ROGERS: I don't know about that. What happened was, this very diehard group - and it's about 29 members as a caucus - has decided that they want to manage the House in a very, very different way than the majority of Republicans who are elected in what they would call a caucus. And so to - and what happened was it just created problems because you didn't have enough votes. The Democrats decided they weren't going to participate in that. They decided if someone was going to, you know, hang themselves then you don't get in the way. Matter of fact, you hand them the rope. And that's what - that turned into this horribly dysfunctional body. And that's what you saw playing out politically. And I think the speaker didn't want to run before. He was trying to forge deals that he thought would keep the government functioning and still score some conservative victories. That just wasn't enough for those 29 or so members. And that's where I think the dysfunction - and again, remember the Democrats weren't jumping up and down to help with that situation. And again, why I think people would turn on the TV and think the place is horrifically dysfunctional. And to some degree, they're exactly right.

MONTAGNE: Well, you know though - we just have a little bit of time here. But for a man who already survived four rough years, why now?

ROGERS: Well, I do think the pope - one thing about John Boehner, he is - he does wear his heart on his sleeve. He is a truly emotional guy. He believes in the work that he's doing. I think the pope was - incredibly moving moment for him, a pinnacle of his career. Remember, very humble beginnings, nine kids, grew up in a bar, working at the bar. His parents slept on a pullout couch, for goodness sake. He became speaker of the House. All of that has real meaning to him. When the pope, I think, came and that touched them him the way it did, I think he realized, listen, I ran the last time 'cause I didn't think - I thought the House would be in trouble without me. I think I've come as far as I can go. It's time for me to move on. Remember, it is a brutal job when everything is working well. It's not even close to being remotely interesting when it's - when you can't get your own caucus to agree on policies.

MONTAGNE: Thank you very much for joining us.

ROGERS: Hey, thank you for having me.

MONTAGNE: Former Representative Mike Rogers, on the news that House Speaker John Boehner will resign from Congress, step down from the speakership, at the end of October. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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