It may have had a slow start, preparing for Pope Francis, but this week in Congress turned out to be a game-changer. Here are five things that happened in Congress this week that you need to know:
- House Speaker John Boehner announces resignation
The 13-term Ohio Congressman who led the Republican party to an impressive House majority in 2010 and again in 2012, announced he’s stepping down as Speaker of the House and will resign from Congress at the end of October.
Why it matters? With a possible government shutdown on the line, over Planned Parenthood funding, Boehner was working toward a budget agreement that would avert another government shutdown whilst facing significant pushback from the conservatives in the party who were threatening to unseat him as Speaker if he acted against their wishes. Now, Boehner can simply pass a deal with the help of Democrats to keep the government from shutting down on Sept. 30.
- McConnell’s cloture dilemma
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has yet again come up short in finding the necessary 60 votes to move forward bills by cloture. Thursday, McConnell’s effort to move a bill that would fund the government through Dec. 11, while redirecting federal funding for Planned Parenthood to other community health providers, failed 47-52.
Why it matters: Earlier this month McConnell failed to find the votes to invoke cloture over the President’s Iran nuclear deal, coming up two votes shy of ending debate. With more significant votes on the horizon, McConnell must work even harder to corral the disappointed caucus and move legislation forward in order to prove the success of the new Senate leadership as we prepare to enter a presidential election year.
- Pope Francis addresses Congress
Making history, the pope gave a 50-minute speech to a join session of Congress, where he touched on several controversial themes of his papacy in front of lawmakers — immigration, the refugee crisis, climate change and the death penalty — calling on the deeply divided Congress to come together and renew a “spirit of fraternity and solidarity, cooperating generously for the common good.”
Why it matters: Pope Francis not only became the first-ever pontiff to address a joint-session of Congress, but he also had the ear of both chambers, an honor typically reserved to the President of the United States and other global political leaders.
- NSA Chief testifies that Hillary Clinton emails were an ‘opportunity’ for foreign spy agencies
During a hearing on the NSA, GOP Senator Tom Cotton queried National Security Agency Director Mike Rogers with a series of questions related to Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server at her home for communications as secretary of state.
Why it matters: Once the overwhelming favorite for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton again finds her campaign efforts overshadowed by her decision to use a private email server while Secretary of State. This has left some Democrats to look for an alternative — primarily the undeclared Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
- Senate Democrats offer climate change bill
The same week China announced its promise to create the globe’s largest cap-and-trade program in order to help developing countries slash their greenhouse gas emissions, Senate Democratic leaders unveiled their own climate change plan. Their measure that calls for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2 percent annually through 2025 — a cut even greater than the controversial goal set by the Obama administration.
Why it matters: While the bill doesn’t stand a chance of passing with a Republican-controlled Congress, Senate Democrats believe their aggressive climate change efforts will help them win the hearts of countries around the globe, and ultimately American voters who will elect them to take back control of the Senate in 2016.