By Alex Gangitano
Francis’ visit deeply affected Boehner. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
The man who brought more traffic to Washington than most presidential inaugurations turns 79 today. Some might even say Pope Francis helped set in motion the biggest turnover in House leadership in years.
Although his September visit was the he’s only time he’s been to Capitol Hill, the hype and repercussions were unmatched.
In March 2014, former Speaker John A. Boehner announced he had invited the pontiff to address a joint meeting of Congress.
On Sept. 24, thousands greeted the pope at the Capitol, arriving as early as 4:30 a.m. While he affected many lives that day, perhaps his biggest influence was on Boehner, and in turn, Congress. The Ohio Republican met with Francis before the joint meeting, when, now famously, Francis noted the green of Boehner’s tie. Green symbolizes hope, according to Francis, and Boehner responded, “I need a lot of hope today.”
What You Missed: Pope Francis’ Address to Congress
Throughout the pontiff’s address to Congress and the crowds on the West Front, Boehner was visibly emotional.
The very next morning, the Catholic speaker announced his resignation. At his news conference that day, he said, “Just yesterday we witnessed the awesome sight of Pope Francis addressing the greatest legislative body in the world — and I hope we will all heed his call to live by the Golden Rule. But last night, I started to think about this. And this morning, I woke up and I said my prayers, as I always do, and I decided, you know, today’s the day I’m going to do this.”
The ensuing month was filled with uncertainty, unrest and a testing of the GOP’s resolve in finding a new leader.
And, when Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., was elected (He’s also a Catholic), Boehner went on to say on CNN, “I laid every ounce of Catholic guilt I could on him” to get him to take the job.
Happy Birthday, Francis! We can’t wait to see what happens next time you come to town.