John Boehner

A long session with his top aide, 45 minutes in solitude, and an escape to Trattoria Alberto’s on Capitol Hill.


By Jake Sherman , Anna Palmer and John Bresnahan
09/25/15 – 07:28 PM EDT

Mike Sommers was the only one John Boehner trusted with the news.

The speaker’s 40-year-old chief of staff, who began his congressional career as an intern for Boehner in 1997, had been developing the exit plan for some time. The speaker would announce his retirement on his 66th birthday, Nov. 17, and hand over the gavel to his successor at the beginning of January. The Boehner Era would end when the New Year began.

But at 6 p.m. Thursday, shortly after a meeting with five of his conservative colleagues, Boehner came into Sommers’ office and said he was thinking seriously about resigning.

The two spoke for an hour, weighing the decision and its implications for the House. Boehner then retreated to his office, where he sat in solitude for 45 minutes. When he returned, Boehner looked at Sommers and said, “Tomorrow’s the day.”

Sommers knew better than to push back; when Boehner makes a decision, he rarely changes his mind. But Sommers wanted to make sure Boehner had thought it through.

“I have to choose the team over self,” Boehner told Sommers as they wrapped up.

The speaker then escaped to one of his favorite Washington haunts, Trattoria Alberto’s on Capitol Hill, which let him smoke in a private room upstairs. He had dinner with a group of close friends but didn’t let them in on the secret. Meanwhile, Sommers sent Boehner his resignation speech to review.

On Friday morning, Sommers checked in with Boehner once again. Sommers asked if the 25-year veteran of Congress had changed his mind.

“Nope,” Boehner said, as he walked home from his morning breakfast at Pete’s Diner. “Perfectly happy with the decision.”

With that, a quarter-century political career came to an unceremonious end — in a fashion that was stunning and wholly unsurprising at the same time.

Boehner won the majority in 2010, in part, by making then-Speaker Nancy Pelosi an albatross around the neck of every Democratic lawmaker.

To read expanded article, click here.