Members of Congress had a big decision to make when it came to Pope Francis’ speech Thursday: who to invite.
Representatives had 50 tickets to give for viewing the address on the Capitol lawn and Senators had 200, but each member of Congress had just one extra ticket for seating in the Gallery.
Many members of Congress gave that ticket to their spouse or another family member. “It was not a hard decision. It would have cost me a marriage if I would not have given it to her,” Sen. Jon Tester of Montana joked to the National Journal of giving the ticket to his wife Sharla.
Others gave their ticket to faith leaders from their state or district. California Sen. Barbara Boxer and New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, for example, both invited nuns from their home states.
But a few lawmakers broke the mold with their invites. These are some members of Congress with interesting invites to see Pope Francis speak:
- House Speaker John Boehner, who was instrumental in bringing Pope Francis to the United States and will meet with him privately before the address, invited former Speaker Newt Gingrich and his wife Calista (Boehner got four gallery tickets to give away).
- South Carolina Rep. Mark Sanford invited Dr. Ben Carson, the former neurosurgeon and current 2016 Republican candidate.
- New Jersey Rep. Tom MacArthur invited New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, another 2016 Republican candidate.
- House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi invited billionaire environmentalist political donor Tom Steyer.
- Massachusetts Rep. Katherine Clark had an essay contest in her district. The winner of the ticket was seventh-grader Dylan Lopez, who wrote about his support for Pope Francis’s welcoming stance towards immigrants.
- Michigan Rep. Brenda Lawrence invited Martin Manna, an advocate for Iraqi Christian refugees.
- Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow gave the ticket to one of her Catholic friends as a surprise birthday present.
Four other 2016 candidates will be in attendance at the speech because they are members of Congress: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Vice President Joe Biden and his wife will also be attending the speech. Biden will sit beside Boehner behind Pope Francis.