Pope Arrives in a Washington That’s Hoping to Hear Only What It Wants


Screen Shot 2015-09-22 at 7.31.19 AMCARL HULSE  Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Good Tuesday morning. Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin may have followedformer Gov. Rick Perry of Texas off the trail to clear the field, but Washington is gaining both a boldface name and hundreds of thousands of members in his entourage. The pope descends on a Capitol ready for complicated logistics and full of competing voices claiming his message as their own. 

Pope Francis is scheduled to arrive in Washington on Tuesday to a city bursting with anticipation and bracing for gridlock as politicians and activists maneuver to put the pope’s message and presence to use for their own causes.

With expectations high that the pontiff will comment on climate change, criminal justice overhaul, the sanctity of life, immigration and mounting income inequality, among other issues, those engaged on the subjects are eager to invoke the pope’s views as supporting their own.

For instance, contract workers who provide cleaning and food services at the Capitol plan a brief strike in the morning where Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont is expected to speak and offer a prayer that lawmakers heed the pope’s previous statements on worker rights.
Senate Democrats will be introducing climate change legislation tied to the pope’s visit and one later in the week by President Xi Jinping of China. Coming on the heels of House votes on new abortion restrictions, Senate Republicans are forcing a vote on Tuesday on a ban on abortions after 20 weeks though Democrats intend to block the legislation. Over the course of the pope’s three days in Washington, he will be cited regularly in calls for action.
The papal events have Washingtonians who are anxious about the region’s transportation system on calm days girding for the worst as tens of thousands of people pour in for what feels like a combination of a presidential inauguration, a high-level foreign visit and a religious celebration. But despite any potential inconveniences, Josh Earnest, the White House spokesman, said on Monday, “there’s palpable excitement and energy in this town.”
“He’s got a set of values and a way of carrying himself that really resonates with people,” Mr. Earnest said of Pope Francis.