This week: Pope visit, abortion politics
© Greg Nash

Pope Francis's address to Congress — the first ever by a pontiff — will dominate the week.

Tens of thousands are expected to flock to the Capitol as Pope Francis visits Washington, D.C., grinding the Hill to a halt.


Francis is expected to arrive on Capitol Hill around 9:15 a.m. Thursday and will meet privately with House Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBlue wave poses governing risks for Dems Nancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE (R-Ohio) before speaking to Congress at 10 a.m. The House chamber is expected to be at full capacity, with a ticket to see the pope speak considered one of the hottest in Washington.

The Vatican has kept a tight lid on the contents of Pope Francis's much-anticipated address. But he's expected to discuss a wide range of topics, such as climate change, income inequality, normalizing U.S. relations with Cuba, the Iran deal and abortion.

The speech isn't without controversy. At least one member of Congress is planning to boycott; Rep. Paul GosarPaul Anthony GosarGOP lawmaker's siblings endorse Dem opponent: 'Difficult to see my brother as anything but a racist' Overnight Energy: Navajo coal plant to close | NC dam breach raises pollution fears | House panel to examine endangered species bills Push to change wildlife act sparks lobbying blitz MORE (R-Ariz.), who is Catholic, doesn't want to potentially have to listen to Pope Francis lecture Congress about the effects of climate change.

But the event will also check off something of a bucket list item for BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerBlue wave poses governing risks for Dems Nancy Pelosi: Will she remain the ‘Face of the Franchise’? Jordan hits campaign trail amid bid for Speaker MORE, who has tried inviting three popes to speak before Congress over his 20-plus years in office, and finally succeeded.

After speaking before Congress, the pope also plans to make a brief appearance on the Speaker's Balcony on the Capitol's West Front around 10:50 a.m. before departing by 11 a.m.

While the pope's visit on the Hill will be brief, the uptick in security is expected to shut down most of the roads around the Capitol. It will also likely take hours to clear out the massive crowds from the complex after the visit. 



Senate Republicans are putting abortion on the agenda ahead of the pope's visit. 

Senators will spend the early part of the week debating a House-passed bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, even though similar legislation has been ruled unconstitutional at the state level. 

Democrats have slammed Republicans for pivoting to the bill — despite a looming deadline to fund the government — suggesting that they are wasting limited floor time on legislation that isn't expected to get the 60 votes needed to overcome an initial procedural hurdle. 

"I guess they want to do that before the pope gets here," Minority Leader Harry ReidHarry Mason ReidKavanaugh furor intensifies as calls for new testimony grow Dems can’t ‘Bork’ Kavanaugh, and have only themselves to blame Dem senator: Confidential documents would 'strongly bolster' argument against Kavanaugh's nomination MORE (D-Nev.) said last week. "But it's not going to change the people, how he feels about the fact that Republicans have ignored poor people in America."

A similar bill from presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamKim, Moon toss ball to Trump in ‘last, best chance’ for Korean peace GOP senator: Kavanaugh accuser 'moving the goalposts' Collins: Kavanaugh accuser should 'reconsider,' testify on Monday MORE (R-S.C.) only has 45 cosponsors, and hasn't attracted a single Democratic supporter. 

It's also likely to split Senate Republicans running for reelection next year, with blue-state Republican Sens. Kelly AyotteKelly Ann AyotteGOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford Pallbearers, speakers announced for McCain's DC memorial service and Capitol ceremony Tributes pour in for John McCain MORE (N.H.) and Mark KirkMark Steven KirkThis week: Trump heads to Capitol Hill Trump attending Senate GOP lunch Tuesday High stakes as Trump heads to Hill MORE (Ill.) not officially backing the Senate version of the legislation. 


Spending bill

With only a handful of session days left, congressional Republicans are under a tight deadline to figure out how to fund the government while also navigating a public battle over funding Planned Parenthood before the end of the month.

Sen. John CornynJohn CornynKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump, GOP regain edge in Kavanaugh battle GOP mulls having outside counsel question Kavanaugh, Ford MORE (R-Texas) told reporters last week that the Senate could take a vote on defunding the organization in relation to a spending bill, though details on the plan are scarce. 

The maneuver, however, would likely fail to gain the 60 votes to overcome a procedural hurdle. 

Republican division with the Senate is already on the rise, with Ayotte demanding that Sen. Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzFive takeaways from Cruz, O'Rourke's fiery first debate NY Times, McCabe give Trump perfect cover to fire Rosenstein, Sessions Live coverage: Cruz, O'Rourke clash in Texas debate MORE (R-Texas) explain how he plans to win the government shutdown fight with the president pledging to veto a bill that doesn't fund the organization. 

Meanwhile, House Republicans have yet to outline their strategy and its unclear if the House will vote on any stopgap funding bill on Thursday or Friday. 

But Republican leadership gave themselves an insurance policy late last week by adopting "martial law" that allows a fast-track process to consider legislation on the floor.

Deploying the procedure indicates there is at least a possibility a stopgap funding bill — which could include a provision to defund Planned Parenthood at the behest of conservatives — hits the floor this week.

However, that would put the House legislation on a collision course with the Senate, as well as the White House.



The Senate will convene at 2 p.m. Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellGOP, Kavanaugh accuser struggle to reach deal GOP making counteroffer to Kavanaugh accuser The Hill's 12:30 Report — Trump questions Kavanaugh accuser's account | Accuser may testify Thursday | Midterm blame game begins MORE (R-Ky.) said that while no votes are expected, the Senate will debate the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. 

The House isn't in session. 



The Senate will take a procedural vote on proceeding to the 20-week abortion legislation. Sixty votes will be needed to overcome the procedural hurdle. 

The Senate will also likely recess form 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly policy lunches. 

The House isn't in session. 



The House and the Senate will be out of session for the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. 



In addition to the pope's speech, the House is expected to vote on noncontroversial bills under suspension of the rules later in the day. 

With lawmakers still trying to carve out a path forward on the spending bill, it's unclear if either chamber will be in session on Friday.



With both chambers still trying to carve out a path forward on the spending bill, it's unclear what lawmakers will be working on. Chinese President Xi Jinping is expected to visit the Capitol to meet with congressional leadership as part of his trip to Washington.