UPDATED | September 25, 2015 9:48 AM


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WASHINGTON (AP) – In a stunning move, House Speaker John Boehner informed Republicans that he would step down at the end of October.

The 13-term Ohio Republican shocked his GOP caucus early Friday morning when he announced his decision in a closed-door session. It came one day after a high point of Boehner’s congressional career, a historic speech by Pope Francis to Congress at Boehner’s request.

John Boehner says his “first job” as speaker of the House is to “protect this institution that we all love.” And he says if he were to stay on as speaker, there would be a “prolonged leadership turmoil” that would “do irreparable damage” to the House.

In a statement, he says that’s why he is giving up the speakership, and his seat in Congress, at the end of October. He’s stepping aside in the face of hardline conservative opposition that came to a head in a battle over funding for Planned Parenthood.

Boehner says House Republicans have “advanced conservative reforms” during the past five years that he says “will help our children and their children.” He says, “I am proud of what we have accomplished.”

Rep. Tim Huelskamp of Kansas said “it’s time for new leadership,” and Rep. Tom Massie of Kentucky said the speaker “subverted our Republic.”

“I think it was inevitable,” Massie said. “This is a condition of his own making right here.”

But more mainstream Republicans said it would be a pyrrhic victory for the tea partyers.

“The honor of John Boehner this morning stands in stark contrast to the idiocy of those members who seek to continually divide us,” said Rep. David Jolly of Florida.

“The shutdown caucus as I call them has a small victory,” Jolly said.

Boehner’s decision removes the possibility of a damaging vote to strip him of his speakership, a scenario that grew more likely amid the conservative clamor over a shutdown.

Boehner took over the speakership in January 2011.

He was first elected to the House in 1990 and soon established a strongly conservative record. He was part of former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s leadership team when Republicans took over the House in 1995 for the first time in four decades but was ousted from his leadership role in the wake of the GOP’s disappointing performance in the 1998 midterms.

He won a 2006 race to succeed Tom DeLay as the House’s No. 2 Republican when DeLay stepped aside as majority leader. He took over as the top Republican in the House in 2007 after Democrats retook the chamber.

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