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2016 Field Reacts to Boehner Resignation

Emotional Boehner Announces Resignation From Congress 1:06

Republican presidential candidates greeted House Speaker John Boehner’s forthcoming resignation as welcomed news on Friday while courting social conservatives gathered for a summit in Washington, D.C.

"Just a few minutes ago, Speaker Boehner announced that he will be resigning," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said to prolonged applause at the Values Voters summit.

"It's not about him or anybody else, and I'm not here today to bash anyone," Rubio added. "But the time has come to turn the page, the time has come to turn the page and allow a new generation of leadership in this country."

The summit, sponsored by the Family Research Council, draws some of the country's most socially conservative political activists. The group has been critical of the Ohio Republican for not more forcefully fighting Democrats and the Obama administration on issues like Obamacare and immigration.

Before speaking, Donald Trump told reporters it is "wonderful" that Boehner will be stepping down and that he's "not conservative enough."

Lawmakers Reacts to News of Boehner's Resignation 1:22

"Yesterday John Boehner was speaker of the House, you all come to town and somehow that changes," said Texas senator and 2016 presidential candidate Ted Cruz. "My only request is can you come more often?"

Eight GOP presidential candidates will speak to the group over two days, underscoring the important role conservative activists play in early voting states like Iowa and South Carolina.

Rick Santorum, who is making a second presidential run, said Boehner had "changed a bit" and that it was "time to start a new chapter."

And while campaigning in Iowa, Carly Fiorina told reporters, “Every leader has a season. And I appreciate Mr. Boehner's leadership and I think he is doing right thing stepping aside now and I look forward to a conservative leader for the House.”

John Kasich, Jeb Bush and Lindsey Graham, whose campaigns have attempted to appeal to more moderate Republican primary voters, had the kindest words for Boehner. The strongest thanks came from fellow Buckeye John Kasich, who said in a statement: “Ohio and America are stronger today because of John Boehner...He leaves a legacy of unparalleled integrity and steady, mature leadership during difficult times that will be a model for future Speakers and anyone interested in public service.”

Bush and Graham tweeted:

-- NBC's Alex Jaffe and Shaquille Brewster contributed to this report.