House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, invited the pope and requested the vote to limit the audience. Emily Schillinger, a spokeswoman for Boehner’s office, said there is “a tremendous amount of interest in the pope’s visit and we are working to ensure as many people as possible can attend.”
She said the vote was “to make sure that attendance at the joint meeting does not exceed the capacity of the chamber to hold a safe and dignified event.”
The House Chamber, where bills are introduced, debated and voted on and where the president’s State of the Union address and joint sessions and meeting of the House and Senate are held, has more than 440 permanent seats; temporary seats are added for events when necessary.
Former members of Congress who are shut out from the House Chamber could see the pope’s address right outside, as it will be broadcast live on Jumbotron screens on the West Front of the Capitol. Boehner also announced this summer that Pope Francis has “expressed an interest in making a brief appearance on the West Front.”
Ticket allotment and distribution information for the telecast was scheduled to be released July 30.