WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 29: House Speaker John Boehner holds his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on July 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. During the press conference the Speaker listed the accomplishments of the Republican party that saved US tax payers trillions of dollars, but admitted much more needs to be done. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
Astrid Riecken/Getty Images/FILE
WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 29: House Speaker John Boehner holds his weekly news conference on Capitol Hill on July 29, 2015 in Washington, DC. During the press conference the Speaker listed the accomplishments of the Republican party that saved US tax payers trillions of dollars, but admitted much more needs to be done. (Photo by Astrid Riecken/Getty Images)
Now playing
02:14
GOP leaders react to Speaker Boehner's resignation
Speaker of the House John Boehner, tells reporters that he is "cleaning out the barn, cleaning out the barn," as he heads to a GOP conference meeting at the begining of his last week in the House of Representatives October 26 in Washington, DC. The White House and Boehner may be nearing a two-year budget deal that would avert another government shutdown, increase defense and defense spending by $80 billion and extend the debt limit through to March 2017, clearing it away until after the 2016 elections.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Speaker of the House John Boehner, tells reporters that he is "cleaning out the barn, cleaning out the barn," as he heads to a GOP conference meeting at the begining of his last week in the House of Representatives October 26 in Washington, DC. The White House and Boehner may be nearing a two-year budget deal that would avert another government shutdown, increase defense and defense spending by $80 billion and extend the debt limit through to March 2017, clearing it away until after the 2016 elections.
Now playing
00:49
Boehner: There is no Republican Party
House Speaker John Boehner announces his resignation during a press conference on Capitol Hill September 25, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Astrid Riecken/Getty Images
House Speaker John Boehner announces his resignation during a press conference on Capitol Hill September 25, 2015 in Washington, D.C.
Now playing
01:08
John Boehner joins board of cannabis company
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25:  Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announces that he is retiring from the House and stepping down as Speaker at the end of October during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. After 25 years in Congress and five years as Speaker, Boehner said he decided this morning to step down after contemplation and prayer.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 25: Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) announces that he is retiring from the House and stepping down as Speaker at the end of October during a news conference at the U.S. Capitol September 25, 2015 in Washington, DC. After 25 years in Congress and five years as Speaker, Boehner said he decided this morning to step down after contemplation and prayer. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Now playing
01:24
Boehner: Trump presidency a complete disaster
John Boehner repeal replace obamacare_00010923.jpg
HIMSS
John Boehner repeal replace obamacare_00010923.jpg
Now playing
00:58
Boehner: GOP will never replace Obamacare
John Boehner resigns congress_00000000.jpg
John Boehner resigns congress_00000000.jpg
Now playing
02:29
House Speaker John Boehner resigns
pelosi boehner resignation sot_00002111.jpg
pelosi boehner resignation sot_00002111.jpg
Now playing
00:59
Pelosi: Boehner is 'a very fine person'
House Speaker John Boehner kisses House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi during a reception in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 21, 2015.
MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images
House Speaker John Boehner kisses House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi during a reception in the Rose Garden of the White House on April 21, 2015.
Now playing
01:07
Some of the best Boehner moments
CNN
Now playing
00:46
John Boehner chokes up during resignation
Now playing
00:49
Speaker Boehner's army of volunteers
pope francis congress tears moos pkg erin _00005523.jpg
pope francis congress tears moos pkg erin _00005523.jpg
Now playing
02:08
Congress gets emotional during Pope Francis' visit
CNN/Pool
Now playing
03:21
Obama: John Boehner is a good man
john boehner resign nancy pelosi sot_00000419.jpg
john boehner resign nancy pelosi sot_00000419.jpg
Now playing
02:25
Pelosi: Boehner resignation 'seismic for the House'
Boehner Obama History_00001328.jpg
Boehner Obama History_00001328.jpg
Now playing
01:23
Obama and Boehner: A History
orig bw boehner bar_00002825.jpg
orig bw boehner bar_00002825.jpg
Now playing
00:50
6 times John Boehner talked about growing up in a bar

Story highlights

Boehner considered leaving at the end of 2014, but stayed after Majority Leader Eric Cantor was defeated in a primary.

Found himself hemmed in by tea party conservatives

His allies are backing Rep. Kevin McCarthy to become the next Speaker

(CNN) —  

House Speaker John Boehner on Friday seized control of an ending that was beginning to feel inevitable.

Boehner had wanted to end his run last year, but was concerned about destabilizing the House Republican caucus. He was ready to announce his resignation on his birthday this November. But Friday, one day after the emotional, historic visit by Pope Francis to Capitol Hill, Boehner found his moment.

“I decided today is the day I’m going to do this, simple as that,” Boehner said at a Capitol Hill press conference, saying his decision came after a night of sleep and prayers.

The decision marked a tumultuous end to Boehner’s nearly six-year tenure leading the fractured Republican caucus, a time marked by repeated fiscal clashes with the White House, failed deal-makings with President Barack Obama and Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid, but also a rare bipartisan accord on trade and the historic papal visit.

Boehner was elevated to the speakership thanks to the power of tea party candidates in 2010 and then limited by what he could accomplish because of them. The conservative bloc of lawmakers consistently pressed Boehner to take a harder line with Obama and Democrats, a strategy Boehner, a consummate dealmaker, did not always embrace.

Opinion: With Boehner out, can GOP be cured?

Yes, he could have fought for his job on the House floor this fall, prompting an ugly battle where he would have to rely on Democratic vote – something that would have badly undermined his standing in the Republican Party. He could have stayed as Speaker and dealt with a tumultuous session – where he would have to cut major fiscal deals that would have prompted an angry revolt from the right.

He could continue to criss-cross the country, raising big bucks for his party even as his future as Speaker continued to remain in doubt. Or he could have tightened his grip by trying to punish conservative agitators – a tactic he has been resistant to do during his leadership tenure.

Friday, Boehner said he didn’t want to put himself or the House through it. He had already stayed on longer than he had wanted to, running again for Speaker this January after his then-No. 2, Majority Leader Eric Cantor, lost his seat.

“It’s become clear to me that this prolonged leadership turmoil would do irreparable harm to the institution,” Boehner told reporters. “This isn’t about me. It’s about the people, it’s about the institution.”

RELATED: John Boehner’s resignation sparks succession fight

The timing may have been right for Boehner – but it stunned the House GOP Conference Friday morning, which had been meeting to discuss a way forward on funding legislation. Boehner made the announcement – and choked up. Others did too.

“A lot of grown men and women were crying, especially those who know him the most,” said Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-New York.

Ohio GOP Rep. Steve Chabot called the mood “somber” and said there were tears from Boehner but also from other members in the room who listened to his remarks.

“I got choked up,” Chabot said.

It was almost an ideal time for Boehner to step aside. His new grandchild had been blessed by the Pope a day before, and he could leave, in many ways, on a high note after the emotional experience of the leader of his church addressing the chamber a day before.

The decision now puts pressure on conservatives in the House Freedom Caucus, who have sought a bigger seat at the leadership table to try to find a consensus candidate, though it will be hard to win support from the very sizable Boehner wing of the caucus. Rep. Raul Labrador, who ran unsuccessfully for Majority Leader in January, declined to say if he was interested in the job.

RELATED: Barack Obama: House Speaker John Boehner ‘a patriot’

But Boehner allies are pushing hard for his chief deputy, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who declined to declare he was running for Speaker Friday. He added that he didn’t know Boehner’s plan to resign ahead of time and was “shocked” by the announcement.

McCarthy, R-California, said Boehner has shown “a great deal of commitment to this conference. When you think about it, his entrance helped us win the first majority, served in leadership, committee chair and came back and helped us win another majority. History will be kind.”

Boehner told nobody other than his wife until Friday morning, when he began to inform senior staff. And he informed McCarthy just minutes before he told the rest of the House GOP Conference.

It was clear it was ultimately a very personal decision. Boehner and his allies had grown frustrated, having taken his party back to the majority in 2010 and grown the GOP conference to historic levels in 2014, only to see a group of conservative agitators try to take him down. Twenty-five Republicans voted in January to eject him from the speakership, and it was possible that that number could have grown past 29, forcing Boehner to rely on Democrats to keep him in the speakership.

Rep. Steve Womack, R-Arkansas, said as he left the conference meeting, “it is and it isn’t” shocking. If there was ever a time to resign, Womack said, it is now.

READ: Why Boehner quit