House Speaker John Boehner resigning from Congress

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House Speaker John Boehner

WASHINGTON — House Speaker John Boehner is resigning from his position as the top House Republican and his seat in Congress at the end of October, a senior leadership aide said Friday.

Boehner announced his decision to colleagues Friday morning, sharing the news with House Republicans during a closed-door conference meeting.

The abrupt decision comes after he faced heavy pressure from conservatives in his party to take a harder line on their causes, most recently over defunding Planned Parenthood.

Boehner, who has served as House Speaker since 2011, explained during the closed-door meeting that he had only planned to serve two terms as speaker but decided to hold onto his post after then-House Majority Leader Eric Cantor lost his seat during a primary last year, a Republican lawmaker in the room told CNN.

Boehner also told the lawmakers that Pope Francis’ visit to Congress the day before was a crystallizing moment, according to the lawmaker. Boehner then read the prayer of St. Francis to the conference after announcing his decision.

Boehner’s decision came as a shock to many, with his top deputy House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy finding out moments before. McCarthy, a California Republican, is a top candidate to succeed Boehner. Rep. Paul Ryan, the House Ways and Means Committee chairman who was the party’s vice presidential nominee in 2012, isn’t planning to run for the seat at this time, according to an aide.

A top Boehner aide told CNN the Speaker did not make his final decisions until Thursday night and was very emotional when he announced the news. One Republican in the room said he cried when he made the announcement.

“After yesterday with the Pope he decided to leave on this high note,” the aide said. “Literally did not make the decision til last night.”

Rep. Greg Walden, a member of Boehner’s House leadership, said he had no idea Boehner would announce his resignation this morning and called it a “terrible loss for the party.”

Walden said he wondered what the Pope told Boehner that may have affected his decision: “I don’t know if this was a message from God, but I wish he sent a different message.”

The House Speaker is third in line for the presidency after the vice president.

Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush praised Boehner in a tweet Friday morning not long after news of Boehner’s resignation broke.

“John Boehner dedicated his life to public service. Bringing the Holy Father to Congress was a fitting cap to a great career,” said Bush, the former governor of Florida.