House restricting access for pope's visit
© Getty Images

Pope Francis won’t be arriving in Washington for another two months, but the House is already bracing for potentially unwieldy crowds hoping to catch a glimpse of the pontiff.

Under new rules established specifically for the pope’s Sept. 24 visit, former members of Congress and most congressional staff will be barred from entering the House chamber or rooms leading to it.

Only current members of Congress, non-voting delegates, President Obama, Vice President Biden, Supreme Court justices, House elected officers, the parliamentarian, architect of the Capitol, librarian of Congress, secretary and sergeant-at-arms of the Senate, and Cabinet secretaries will be allowed entry to the House chamber and adjoining rooms.


Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerMeadows joins White House in crisis mode Meadows set to resign from Congress as he moves to White House The Pelosi administration MORE (R-Ohio) can also designate other people to be allowed inside.

The restrictions are stipulated in a rule passed by the House on Tuesday establishing parameters for debate on an unrelated bill regarding the regulatory process.

Former members of Congress, who are allowed regular access to the House floor, have previously been permitted to attend high-profile addresses by foreign dignitaries despite high demand for seating. Former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) and ex-Reps. Michele BachmannMichele Marie BachmannEvangelicals shouldn't be defending Trump in tiff over editorial Mellman: The 'lane theory' is the wrong lane to be in White House backs Stephen Miller amid white nationalist allegations MORE (R-Minn.) and Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), for instance, attended Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to Congress in March.

But this time, former lawmakers won't be granted the access they can usually count on to enter the House chamber.

Lawmaker offices are already receiving requests for tickets to Pope Francis’s address. Each member office is only allotted a limited number of tickets for a guest in the chamber, for which demand will be exceptionally high. 

Pope Francis will also meet with President Obama at the White House and celebrate mass at the Washington basilica on Sept. 23.

Congress is anticipating that Pope Francis's visit will likely attract crowds on the scale of a presidential inauguration. Jumbotrons will be set up on the Capitol's west front so that members of the public can watch the pope's speech live and see him from afar during a brief appearance outside.