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Wednesday, December 7, 2016

By Steve Holland and Erin McPike

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The news that U.S. House Speaker John Boehner will resign electrified a summit of Republican conservatives on Friday, with a variety of presidential candidates saying it is time for a new generation of leadership in Washington.

Raucous cheers broke out at the Values Voter Summit in Washington when Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, a candidate for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination, broke into his prepared speech to announce that Boehner planned to step down.

“I’m not here to bash anyone,” Rubio told the crowd. “But the time has come to turn the page.”

Many conservatives have long since been fed up with Boehner for what they consider a failure to advance their agenda. With Republicans in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate, conservatives are frustrated that President Barack Obama’s signature healthcare law has not been repealed and that Obama still seems to have his way with Congress.

“This is an opportunity for a new speaker who will take it as a solemn commitment to the people who elected us that he or she is going to do exactly what we told the voters we will do,” said Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, another Republican presidential hopeful.

Boehner’s announcement that he was leaving the speakership and Congress effective Oct. 30 highlighted the split in his party between conservatives and more moderate Republicans.

Senator John McCain of Arizona, the party’s 2008 presidential nominee, hailed Boehner as a good man who had grown weary of attempting to keep conservative House Republicans in line.

“I’m sad because I have great respect and affection for Speaker Boehner,” McCain told reporters after his address to the Values Voter Summit.

Some Republican presidential candidates are trying to tap into conservatives’ anger at the party’s establishment in order to gain support from a key voting bloc and advance their bid for the nomination to run in November 2016.

New York billionaire Donald Trump, who is leading in opinion polls of Republican voters, said politicians become different people once they get to Washington.

“They get elected. They’re full of vim and vigor. They’re going to change things. They’re going to get rid of Obamacare. They’re going to do all of these things. They come down to these magnificent vaulted ceilings that you see all over Washington. And what happens? They become different people,” Trump told summit attendees.

The candidates had another reason to welcome the Boehner news. An NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll found that 72 percent of Republican primary voters were dissatisfied with Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s ability to achieve Republican goals. The poll was conducted Sunday through Thursday.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: U.S. Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) wipes away tears as he answers questions about his resignation as Speaker and from the U.S. Congress at a news conference at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, September 25 2015. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst