From popes to gyrocopters: What we learned on Capitol Hill in 2015

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Oh, the things we learned on Capitol Hill in 2015.

The conservative House Freedom Caucus couldn’t get former House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, to quit. But Pope Francis sure could.

The Ohio Republican announced his intention to resign the day after the Pope’s historic speech before a Joint Meeting of Congress in September. Boehner thought it over after visiting His Holiness and decided to cash it in.

I guess that’s why the Pope is called “His Holiness” and the House Freedom Caucus is called, well, the House Freedom Caucus..

Although we’re pretty sure some Members of Congress have other choice names for the Freedom Caucus.

We also learned something in 2015 about 2014.

We found out that Boehner had been plotting to get out of Dodge for a year-and-a-half..until Rep. Dave Brat, R-Va., screwed all of that up by defeating House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., in his primary.

We also learned that to Boehner’s successor, current House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., no eventually means yes.

We also confirmed that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., is House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif.

Under Ryan, Congress unearthed a pathway to pass a slate of major bills to fund the government, reform the nation’s education system and construct new roads and bridges. Yet nobody pays any attention to any of that because everyone’s focused on Ryan’s whiskers – which Ryan confirmed may disappear by early 2016.

Congressional observers this year learned about the office decorating preferences of former Rep. Aaron Schock, R-Ill. An interior designer decked out Schock’s Capitol Hill office with a Downton Abbey motif. The Congressman then resigned in March amid questions that Schock may have bilked the federal government for travel reimbursements. A federal grand jury is still studying Schock’s case.

Speaking of Illinois, we learned more than we ever thought we would about former House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill.

Various lawmakers all have their pet advocacy issues. Business. Banking. Agriculture. Human rights. In 2015, we found out that Washington, DC’s non-voting delegate to Congress, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC,  is no exception. One issue she champions? Sledding at the U.S. Capitol.

As the biggest snowstorm of the year threatened to paralyze Washington, DC in early March, Norton fired off a missive to Senate Sergeant at Arms Frank Larkin. She protested a Capitol Police Board edict which bans sledding on Capitol Hill.

Fight the powder.

Despite the prohibition, U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) politely looked the other way when scores of out-of-school kids swarmed the Hill with plastic saucers and refrigerator boxes.

And guess what? Tucked into the aforementioned $1.15 trillion omnibus bill was language which now permits sledding on Capitol Hill.

Gives a whole new connotation to “legislative riders.”

We also discovered that Norton can’t parallel park. Perhaps she should consider an alternative mode of transportation to navigate Capitol Hill.

Like a gyrocopter.

“Gyrocopter” entered the Congressional vernacular when former mailman Doug Hughes outfoxed NORAD with a flying lawnmower, penetrating the most-secure airspace in North America and landing it on the Capitol’s front lawn.

Hughes pleaded guilty in court for the incursion. But he may yet score a soft-landing. Hughes is now running against Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla.

If he wins, maybe Hughes can fly Norton around so she doesn’t have to park.

This past year, everyone learned what the abbreviation “OPM” stands for. The acronym means the Chinese know where you live and how much you spent at Target.

We learned that political skeletons which lurk in your closet might skip an election cycle or two.

The association of Sen. David Vitter, R-La., with the fabled “DC Madam” wasn’t enough to sink him in his 2010 Senate contest. But the scandal did harm Vitter in the run-off election for governor this year. Afterwards, Vitter announced his retirement from the Senate.

In July, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, alluded to St. Peter’s triple denial of Jesus, claiming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., wasn’t truthful about an anticipated vote to renew the controversial Export-Import Bank.

“The Majority Leader looked at me and said there is no deal, there is no deal, there is no deal,” intoned Cruz in a dramatic floor speech.

That provoked Senate Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, the most-senior Republican in the Senate and the man third-in-line to the presidency, to scold Cruz on the floor.

“To bring personal attacks to the Senate floor would be to import the most-toxic elements of the current political discourse into the well of the Senate,” fumed Hatch.

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., didn’t have it much easier than McConnell in 2015. At least the blows leveled against the Kentucky Republican were rhetorical. On New Year’s Day, Reid yanked some exercise equipment off the wall at his house, causing the gear to crash down on top of him. Reid temporarily lost sight in his right eye, underwent several surgeries and had to sport Matrix-inspired sunglasses indoors for months.

And in 2015, there was much debate on Capitol Hill about guns. USCP officers left behind loaded weapons in Capitol restroom stalls on multiple occasions.

That led the USCP to provide a refresher to officers on what do with their firearms when they have to use the john…

Otherwise known as potty training.

Capitol Attitude is a weekly column written by members of the Fox News Capitol Hill team. Their articles take you inside the halls of Congress, and cover the spectrum of policy issues being introduced, debated and voted on there.