Boehner to limit access to Pope's speech to Congress

Story highlights

  • House Speaker John Boehner is trying cut back the guest list for Pope Francis' visit
  • The Pope is scheduled address Congress on September 24

Washington (CNN)Fearing an overcapacity crowd, House Speaker John Boehner is cracking down on access to the House chamber for Pope Francis' speech to a joint meeting of Congress in September -- and he doesn't want former members of Congress showing up.

Tucked inside a resolution passed by the House on Tuesday was a rule limiting who can enter the chamber on September 24. Retired members of Congress -- many of whom work as lobbyists in Washington, or even as cable news show hosts -- didn't make the cut.
A spokeswoman for Boehner explains there's only so much space inside the chamber.
    "There's a tremendous amount of interest in the Pope's visit and we are working to ensure as many people as possible can attend. We took this step in order to make sure that attendance at the joint meeting does not exceed the capacity of the chamber to hold a safe and dignified event," Emily Schillinger told CNN in a written statement.
    Only current members of Congress, delegates, the President and vice president, Supreme Court justices, Cabinet heads, congressional officials, officers of the House and those designated by Boehner personally can watch the speech inside the chamber or be allowed in rooms around the House floor.
    It's common for former members to show up for high profile speeches, such as State of the Union, or the recent address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Under House rules there are hundreds of members who no longer serve but still retain floor privileges. Some who work in the area are spotted occasionally on the floor visiting with their former colleagues.
    The good news is that Boehner announced recently he's setting up Jumbotrons on the West Front so those former members who want to witness history can join the general public just outside the Capitol, and perhaps get a glimpse of the pontiff when he makes a brief appearance outside.