House Limits Chamber Access for Pope Address

(Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

House lawmakers opted Tuesday to limit who can be present in the chamber during Pope Francis' historic address to Congress in September.  

In a vote on a procedural measure  Tuesday afternoon, lawmakers opted to exclude former members of Congress from being present for the address. Former members are typically allowed in the chamber, and make appearances at other dignitaries' addresses to Congress, but will not be granted access when the pontiff addresses a joint meeting of Congress on Sept. 24. The move appeared to signal that the House is preparing for widespread interest in attending the pope's address. Capitol security officials are already bracing for what Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Frank J. Larkin described as the "mass of humanity " that will likely descend on the District during the visit.  

According to the rule adopted Tuesday, the only people allowed in the House chamber for the speech include members of Congress and members-elect, the delegates and the resident commissioner from Puerto Rico, the president and vice president, Supreme Court justices, House officers, the parliamentarian, the Architect of the Capitol, the Librarian of Congress, the Secretary of the Senate, the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, Cabinet secretaries, and "other persons as designated by the Speaker."  

But former members of Congress could head outside the Capitol to catch the pope's address, since it will be broadcast live on the West Front . Onlookers outside the Capitol may even get a live glimpse of Pope Francis, since Speaker John A. Boehner, R-Ohio, said the pope "had expressed an interest in making a brief appearance on the West Front."