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Pope's Message Provides Rare Moment Of Unity For Obama, Boehner

Pope Francis waves to the crowd after addressing Congress on Thursday.
Getty Images
Pope Francis waves to the crowd after addressing Congress on Thursday.

Mark this time in the history books: 1:09 p.m. That's the moment on Friday when Pope Francis' influence came through in two simultaneous news conferences, held by two men who haven't always seen eye to eye.

At one end of Pennsylvania Avenue, House Speaker John Boehner was reflecting on his decision to resign.

"Just yesterday we witnessed the awesome sight of Pope Francis addressing the greatest legislative body in the world and I hope that we will all heed his call to live by the golden rule. But last night I started thinking about this. And this morning I woke up and I said my prayers as I always do and I decided 'you know, today's the day I'm going to do this.' As simple as that."

And at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, President Obama was answering a question about what the speaker's resignation would mean for his ability to work with a Republican Congress.

"I would just ask members to really reflect on what his holiness said, not in the particulars, but in the general proposition that we should be open to each other, we should not demonize each other, we should not assume that we have a monopoly on the truth or on what's right, that we listen to each other and show each other respect and that we show regard for the most vulnerable in our society. It's not a particularly political message, but I think it's a good one ..."

"I'd like to think that that spirit will continue to permeate Washington for some time to come and I know that in his heart that's who John Boehner was. It was sometimes hard to execute. But as I've said he was a good man and a reasonable man and he's going to be around for a while and I hope that we can get some things done before he steps down."

The first real test will come as the clock ticks down to the end of the fiscal year, Sept. 30. House Republicans say they've agreed to pass a clean (no defunding of Planned Parenthood attached) bill to temporarily fund the government. The next speaker will have to deal with the potential fight to come.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
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