By Jessica Wehrman
For years, House Speaker John Boehner has taken a ribbing for his tendency to become weepy during emotional moments.
On Tuesday night, though, most of the members of the Ohio House delegation – led by Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati – gave him something to cry about.
In a series of speeches – called “Special Order” speeches, member after member stood up to honor the retiring speaker, honoring him with funny stories and touching anecdotes.
Boehner, a West Chester Twp. Republican, is stepping down Thursday after nearly five years as speaker and 24 years in the House of Representatives. His story – rising as the son of a bar owner to become speaker of the U.S. House – was, said Chabot, “the American dream personified.”
Said Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, who has served the longest among Ohio House members: “He constantly worked to find a way forward during a period as contentious as any in the history of this Congress that I recall.”
“While we may not always have agreed, your door was always open,” said Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland.
During the first few speeches, Boehner sat in the back of the chamber, listening to his colleagues, occasionally pulling out a handkerchief to dab at his eyes.
Dayton native and Columbus-area Rep. Joyce Beatty, D-Jefferson Twp., meanwhile, recalled how Boehner approved a request for her to attend former South African leader Nelson Mandela’s funeral, despite the fact that she was a freshman lawmaker. “It’s not bad to have the Speaker – the third most powerful person in the country – to call you by your first name and when you’re back home to say to others in my district that I’m his friend.”
Columbus-area Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Twp., recalled how as a freshman in 2001, Boehner pulled him aside when he saw that Tiberi had not requested to serve on the Education and Workforce Committee. Boehner told him he’d serve on it. “It was an unbelievable experience,” Tiberi said.He said he watched as Boehner ironed out differences with other lawmakers to pass the 2001 No Child Left Behind.
“Boy, could he run a committee,” Tiberi recalled. “It was really his forte.”
And Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, recalled asking Boehner if he could serve on the House Energy and Commerce Committee when he was a freshman. Boehner, Stivers recalled, “took a big drag of his cigarette and said, ‘not gonna happen.’”
“He never misled me,” Stivers said.
Said Tiberi: “What a journey.”