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Speaker of the House John Boehner, who played a key role a decade ago in the passage of legislation to shore up the federal pension insurance program, and who more recently has been a staunch opponent of the health insurance reform law, will resign at the end of next month, the Ohio Republican disclosed Friday.
“It was my plan to only serve as Speaker until the end of last year, but I stayed on to provide continuity to the Republican Conference and the House. It is my view, however, that prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable damage to the institution. To that end, I will resign the Speakership and my seat in Congress on Oct. 30,” Rep. Boehner said in a statement.
First elected to the House of Representatives in 1990, Speaker Boehner's most significant role in the employee benefits arena, was his sponsorship and strong backing in 2005, as chairman of the House Education and Workforce Committee, of legislation to tighten pension plan funding requirements, boost insurance premiums employers pay the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp. and protect new cash balance pension plans from age discrimination suits.
“I think the effect of this bill, over the next 10 to 20 years, will be to prevent a meltdown” of the PBGC, Rep. Boehner said at the time he introduced the measure in 2005.
Lawmakers passed the legislation in 2006 with overwhelming bipartisan support.
Since then, Rep. Boehner's actions in employee benefit issues have largely centered on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which he strongly opposed.
He supported numerous House-passed bills to repeal the ACA, which he said would “ruin” what he said was the world's best health care system.
Later, at the time the U.S. Supreme Court in 2012 upheld the constitutionality of an ACA provision that requires most individuals to either enroll in a health plan or be liable for a financial penalty, Rep. Boehner said the ruling reinforced the need for lawmakers to repeal “this harmful law in its entirety.”
Business groups applaud Rep. Boehner for his role in trying to resolve health care and pension issues.
“Our large employer members applaud his dedication to reduce the burdens imposed on employers offering health coverage, and to protect pension plans and retirement security for workers across the country,” Annette Guarisco Fildes, president and CEO of the ERISA Industry Committee in Washington, said in a statement.
House Republicans will decide later on who will succeed Rep. Boehner.
One widely discussed potential successor — Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., — who is the House Majority Leader, has been a long-time ACA opponent.
“I will not stop fighting until this government takeover of health care is fully repealed and defunded,” Rep. McCarthy said in 2011.
Employees again would be able to tap their flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts and health reimbursement arrangements to pay for over-the-counter medications without a doctor's prescription under legislation approved Thursday by the House Ways and Means Committee.