Essential Politics: All about the pope

Welcome to Essential Politics, a new newsletter from the Los Angeles Times. I’m Christina Bellantoni, assistant managing editor for politics and your host today.

"I hope, as a brother of this country, to offer words of encouragement to those called to guide the nation’s political future in fidelity to its founding principles."

That was Pope Francis at the White House on Wednesday, offering a little preview of his much anticipated address to Congress today.

He talked about helping the world’s most needy, citing Martin Luther King Jr., and thanked President Obama for proposing plans to reduce air pollution. "Accepting the urgency, it seems clear to me also that climate change is a problem which can no longer be left to a future generation," the pope said, calling this a "critical moment of history."

His busy day and those words were a backdrop for lawmakers who will cram into the House chamber for the 6:45 a.m. Pacific time event, in the works for months. Above the members of Congress will be their guests — constituents from all across the country lucky enough to score the most coveted ticket of the year.

(House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy will host Monsignor Craig Harrison of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church in Bakersfield. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will host Marc and Lynne Benioff of San Francisco, Service Employees International Union president Mary Kay Henry and climate change activist and billionaire Tom Steyer in her box in the gallery. On the West Front of the Capitol, Pelosi is hosting constituents from California’s 12th district, and representation from San Francisco’s parishes including Father Stephen Privett, chancellor of the University of San Francisco.)

Speaker John Boehner did a Medium post detailing the highly anticipated speech, noting that Francis will speak in English and won’t use a teleprompter.

"There’s been so much talk about what the Pope will say, and whether he’ll address this or that. Herein lies exactly why I invited Pope Francis, and two Popes before him," said Boehner, who like Pelosi, is Catholic. "The Pope transcends all of this. He appeals to our better angels and brings us back to our daily obligations. The best thing we can all do is listen, open our hearts to his message and reflect on his example."

How will this Congress react to that message? We’ll keep track of every moment via our live blog Thursday that will be posted here.


Javier Panzar reports that former state Sen. Lou Correa has picked up another endorsement in his bid to fill the seat Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Garden Grove) is vacating to run for U.S. Senate. It comes from Rep. Juan Vargas (D-San Diego), Correa’s campaign will announce Thursday.

Rep. Linda T. Sanchez (D-Whittier), the chairwoman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus and the congresswoman’s sister, Rep. Karen Bass and John Chiang, the state treasurer, have all announced their support for Correa.

Campaign filings from July show Correa raised $103,680, far exceeding his rivals for the seat.

We will keep an eye on the next round of fillings to see how former state Sen. Joe Dunn (D-Santa Ana) has done in fundraising since throwing his hat into the ring in August. Dunn’s political strategist Doug Herman tells us to expect endorsements in October, because the candidate is focusing "exclusively" on fundraising at the moment.


-- Democratic presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley will be in Los Angeles on Thursday. Kate Linthicum will be there.

-- Mark Z. Barabak and Seema Mehta catch that Carly Fiorina has shifted her stance on big issues like stem-cell research since running for Senate.

-- The way young children sit in cars is about to change in California.


As a reminder, this is the last morning newsletter of the week. I’ll be back Monday morning, because on Fridays, Washington bureau chief David Lauter will be crafting an afternoon version that will focus on the week’s best stories that provide fresh insight on the presidential campaign and other great long reads to take you into the weekend. (Here’s last Friday’s.)

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