House Speaker John Boehner was never a “pork guy,” willing to take money for his district. Nor was he one to blatantly show preference of his home state over others.
Still, when the West Chester Twp. Republican steps down from his seat and his leadership role next month, he’ll take with him a huge amount of power and leave behind a delegation far smaller and far newer to Congress than when he came to Congress in 1991.
“It certainly diminished the clout of Ohio,” said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute at the University of Akron. “Any state in the union, all other things being equal, would rather have a Speaker.”
Boehner was only the third Ohioan to ever serve as Speaker of the House, a role that puts him third in line for the presidency. The last speaker, Nicholas Longworth, left that role in 1931.
“No matter what you think of the Speaker this should be a tough day for Ohio,” said Mark Caleb Smith, director of Cedarville University’s Center for Politics “When you have the Speaker of the House from this state, from this part of the state, it maximizes this part of the state’s influence over the whole country. So whether you are Democrat or Republican, conservative, liberal whatever you may be this does make Ohio weaker on the national scene than it was before.”
While Boehner tried not to show obvious preference for Ohio, just having him in the Speaker’s role gave Ohio extra prestige, said former Rep. David Hobson, R-Springfield. “Even though Boehner didn’t do the traditional earmark stuff, still the fact that the Speaker was from our state was very helpful on a lot of different issues,” he said. “He always had a good staff who were willing to do what they could to assist.”
While Boehner tended not to do “small favors” for the state, he had an important role in shaping policy nationally, said John Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute at the University of Akron.
“It’s useful to have the ear of the speaker,” he said, saying that both the speaker and his allies ‘can play an important role in shaping policy.”
It also means whoever replaces him in representing his southern Ohio district will likely spend years as a rank-and-file member, having to build up the power that Boehner gained over years.
“Losing the speaker is a pretty big deal in terms of local advocacy and having a local voice,’ said Miami University political science professor Bryan Marshall.
Ohio Republican Party Chairman Matt Borges called Boehner’s tenure “one more feather in our cap.” He said having Boehner at the helm helped the state on the fundraising front and gave it a special relationship with the national parties. “We’ve enjoyed something, and I hope people didn’t take that for granted. It was a really nice run,” he said.
He said the state still has power as a key swing state in the presidential election.
Boehner’s resignation also means a drop in the delegation’s seniority. Of those in the current delegation, only Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, has served longer than him. She was first elected in 1982. Seven of the 16 current members have served five or fewer years.
Only one – Rep. Steve Chabot, R-Cincinnati, is the chairman of a committee – the Small Business Committee.
But Rep. Pat Tiberi, R-Genoa Township, is a senior member of the House Ways and Means Committee and the chairman of a key subcommittee on trade. Rep. Bob Gibbs, R-Lakeville, is chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee’s subcommittee on water resources and environment. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Centerville, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee, is chairman of the House Armed Services Committee’s tactical air and land subcommittee — a key subcommittee and one with jurisdiction over Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Lima Tank Plant.
Rep. Marcia Fudge, D-Cleveland, heads the Congressional Black Caucus. Reps. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, and Tim Ryan, D-Niles, will serve on the House Appropriations Committee next year, as does Rep. David Joyce, R-Russell Township. Rep. Jim Jordan, meanwhile, leads the House Freedom Caucus – a group of Tea Party members that some Republicans have criticized as causing some of the angst that led to Boehner’s decision to leave Congress.
They are small crumbs of power after years when Rep. Mike Oxley chaired the House Financial Services Committee and Reps. Ralph Regula and David Hobson were subcommittee chairmen on the then-powerful House Appropriations Committee.
Former speaker of the Ohio House of Representatives Jo Ann Davidson, a Republican, however, argues that the current House delegation has potential.
“It takes time to work your way up to the leadership position,” she said. “And I think some of our members are well placed to do that.”
Lynn Hulsey of Cox Media Group contributed to this report.
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