Late Tuesday afternoon, word hit Capitol Hill that 10-term Rep. Tom Latham (R-IA) was retiring at the end of his term. The news will certainly affect the balance of power in the House—Latham, despite representing a district that Barack Obama won twice, was considered a relatively safe incumbent, and his retirement puts his seat in play in 2014. But it will have another, far more important impact: Latham is a close friend of Speaker John Boehner, and his departure from Congress will further fan the ever constant rumors about Boehner’s retirement.
Although the speaker has filed his reelection papers for his southwestern Ohio congressional seat and has insisted that he won’t step down, the speculation hasn’t died down. Indeed, one Republican congressman, Tim Huelskamp (R-KS), went out of his way during the vote on the Murray-Ryan budget deal last week to tell reporters in the Speaker’s Lobby that he thought Boehner would likely retire. While Huelskamp has long been a thorn in the side of the GOP leadership and no friend to Boehner—the Kansan helped to spearhead an attempted coup against the speaker in January—Huelskamp’s open speculation was still somewhat remarkable.
Only Boehner can predict whether he’ll run again, and so far he’s doing everything one would expect a congressman seeking reelection to do. But Latham’s exit just adds further grist to the Washington rumor mill.