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Republican Former Rep. Dave Camp On John Boehner's Resignation


As we've been reporting, House Speaker John Boehner is stepping down as speaker, also resigning from Congress. He was under intense pressure from conservatives in his party. Dave Camp is the former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He served 12 terms in Congress, a Republican. That's 24 years, all of them - all alongside Speaker John Boehner and joins us now on the line. Good morning.

DAVE CAMP: Well, good morning, Renee. Good to be with you.

MONTAGNE: How about you? Are you surprised, and do you have any idea why now?

CAMP: I'm not completely surprised. And I think the seeds of this had been sewn quite - for quite some time. And really, this motion in the summer to vacate the chair, which was never voted on, I think really sent a strong signal that it's going to be a very challenging time to lead.

MONTAGNE: Let me - let me just break in there for a moment. To vacate the chair - that's basically a no-confidence vote, or that at least was proposed.

CAMP: Yes...

MONTAGNE: Why don't you give us a quick little, small explanation of what that means?

CAMP: Well, it would mean - it's a privilege motion. It was never brought to a vote, but then there would be a vote on essentially, do you reelect the speaker or not? And I think given the challenging vote he had at the beginning of the year, where 24 members of his caucus in an unprecedented way voted against electing him as speaker. To face that again before the August recess would have been a huge challenge. So knowing that is there and knowing the difficult issues that are being faced on whether or not there's going to be a government shutdown and how the government's funded for the next year, I think this is something he'd been thinking about. Obviously, no one can read his mind. But he and I were elected together in 1991, and I think the - there's sort of a weight that builds up over time. And I think he has done a very good job of presiding over a divided caucus. And frankly, he's been a speaker who's tried to really not centralize power in the leadership, but allow members and committees to do their jobs. And when I was chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, he did not micromanage the work I was trying to do, and that allowed me to move forward and actually introduce a comprehensive tax reform bill, H.R. 1. So he's actually been a speaker that has really tried to change the direction of the Congress and really empower the committees and do what we call regular order.

MONTAGNE: Rights. Well, just a brief question. You know, he has - he's seen as someone who wanted to do this - be the speaker of the House more than anything else in life. Why not just serve out his term, even in - with all the difficulties? He certainly knows what that feels like.

CAMP: Well, I think the challenge is right now how the government continues to be funded without a shutdown. And there are - a number of members have said that they would on no terms vote for funding the government if Planned Parenthood were funded. And the announcement that the speaker's going to bring a, quote, unquote, "clean CR bill" means that there will also be bipartisan votes - Democrat votes for this. And I think that would, again, put him in a challenging position with the group of members who feel that he needed to do more in terms of bringing conservative issues to the forefront.

MONTAGNE: Right, showed him basically aligning, to some extent, with the Democrats, which is not a popular thing to do.

CAMP: Well, he's had to depend on Democrat votes...


CAMP: ...To pass some major legislation during his speakership. And that has not done - done him too well within the conference.

MONTAGNE: Dave Camp, thank you very much for talking with us.

CAMP: Thanks so much, Renee. Take care.

MONTAGNE: Dave Camp is a former chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and served alongside John Boehner for more than two decades. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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