SEVERE WX : Special Weather Statement View Alerts

Some Republicans grill Ryan over House chaplain firing

At least two Republican House members confronted Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday morning at their caucus meeting over the...

Posted: Apr 28, 2018 8:47 AM
Updated: Apr 28, 2018 8:47 AM

At least two Republican House members confronted Speaker Paul Ryan on Friday morning at their caucus meeting over the firing of the House chaplain, multiple Republicans coming out of the meeting Friday told CNN.

One of the members who brought up concerns was New York Republican Rep. Pete King, who said afterward that Ryan's explanation for asking the Rev. Pat Conroy, a Jesuit priest, to resign was "unsatisfactory." Both King and Ryan are Catholic.

"To me it was an unsatisfactory answer," King said. "It is such an unprecedented action to be to only be taken for very, very serious issues. And the speaker said it was just because certain people said he was not complying with their request or was not giving good counsel. I never heard that from anyone. Anyone who I know who deals with him has the highest regard for him."

Jesuits close to Conroy told CNN that Ryan's office asked Conroy to come by the speaker's office around the Easter recess. Conroy was told he was being asked to resign but not told why. It was kind of a "thanks for your service, Padre" kind of conversation, Jesuits close to Conroy described to CNN.

The sources said Conroy was particularly perplexed because he has made strong friendships with Republicans in his seven years as chaplain and genuinely does try to stay out of politics.

Just a few days before he was asked to resign, he told Catholics in California that he is "in the one job in the US where I absolutely have to abstain from politics!"

Conroy resigned April 15 after he spent nearly seven years praying at the outset of House sessions. He wrote two versions of his resignation letters, which were both obtained by CNN by a congressional source. In the first letter, he writes that Ryan should consult with his chief of staff on a resignation date, but the second letter stated his last day would be May 24.

Ryan's reasons

It's not immediately clear why Conroy was asked to resign. CNN reported Thursday that Ryan requested the House chaplain resign from his post earlier this month, and several prominent Democratic lawmakers want to know more information as to why the Jesuit priest was asked to step down.

On Thursday, Ryan's spokesperson AshLee Strong denied that Conroy was pushed out for anything he said or did, but she didn't elaborate on what triggered the resignation request.

"The speaker consulted with the minority leader, but the decision was his," she told CNN in a statement. "He remains grateful for Father Conroy's service."

According to a person who attended Friday's conference meeting, the speaker explained that he asked Conroy to resign "based on member feedback about pastoral care."

A separate GOP member who attended the meeting said Ryan "didn't say this as bluntly but the reason for the change is that many of us like Father Conroy but we feel like he didn't do anything. We never see him. We never hear from him. We'd like to have a more active Priest/Pastor."

At the meeting, King asked Ryan if the decision was made due to any political pressure or political motivation. Ryan responded no and disputed the notion that it was related to the prayer in October on tax reform.

"Paul said that was not the issue," King said. "Paul said it wasn't solely because he want giving good service to the members. Again, I had never heard that before."

Republicans praise fired chaplain and don't know why he was fired

When asked what reasons Ryan gave in the caucus meeting for why the chaplain was fired, GOP Rep. Doug Lamborn was at a total loss for words.

"I was -- I'm not the best one to answer that because I was talking to some people on the side about personal issue during that moment that we were talking about -- but I agree with it," he responded, after pausing for five minutes searching for words.

King lamented that at the end of the day Ryan did not give "real specific issues" that led to his firing -- beyond saying there were some "complaints from some of the members about lack of the chaplain's service."

Rep. Mark Sanford, who was in the meeting and has been selected to help choose the new chaplain, told CNN that Ryan said it was "based on the input of some members" who had not been satisfied with the chaplain -- but did not or would elaborate.

GOP Rep. Mark Walker refuted rumors circulating among House members that he told Ryan he wanted a minister with a family to take over as House chaplain.

"I have no problem, Catholic, bishop, priest, male or female, my only point was that they would have some familial experience or family-based ministry," Walker told CNN. "What they thought I was talking about was somebody that had to be married -- not at all. We would want somebody who had some experience dealing with issues and families."

When asked what prompted his remarks, he said he never complained about the chaplain.

"I never even had any interaction with him ... I never complained to Paul," he said. "I know there were multiple members who did."

GOP Rep. Tom Rooney, a Catholic, told CNN before Friday's votes that he "loved" the Chaplain and that he was "a great priest." He voted "present" for the motion to investigate the chaplain firing.

"I think he is a great priest," he said. "Obviously, the Catholic Church and the Republican Party don't always marry up and neither does the Catholic Church and the Democratic Party so I don't think it's supposed to be a litmus test on whether or not it fits neatly into one party or another."

Democrats want answers

New York Democratic Rep. Joseph Crowley offered a privileged resolution on the House floor, trying to force investigation about firing of the chaplain. It was eventually voted down by the House.

Democratic Rep. Gerry Connolly, who is Catholic, told CNN Thursday he wasn't sure why Ryan made the decision and wants to the Wisconsin Republican to answer questions over "this breach that he created." Connoly's office was among several circulating a letter Friday afternoon signed by 148 members "requesting information on his decision to remove the House chaplain."

An aide for House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told CNN she made it clear to Ryan that she had only received positive comments about Conroy's service from House lawmakers. The aide also said Pelosi, who is also Catholic, made it clear to Ryan that she disagreed with his decision.

Pelosi released a statement Friday saying Conroy "ministered to the needs" of members and that his term had been a "blessing of grace and dignity."

"It is truly sad that he made this decision, and it is especially bewildering that he did so only a matter of months before the end of his term," Pelosi said. "The Speaker did this knowing that he had no power to fire Father Conroy and instead chose to force him out by demanding his resignation."

Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, a Methodist pastor for more than 30 years, went straight to the speaker's office on Thursday and told his chief of staff that Ryan's move to fire the House chaplain was "ugly" and "awful."

Cleaver delivered that message after he met with Conroy to hear about why he was told he needed to go and was told that Jonathan Burks, the top aide to the speaker asked him to step down and gave him the letter to sign.

The Missouri Democrat tried to meet with Ryan personally but ended up having a 30 minute meeting with Burks, who he said was "cordial and listened."

Cleaver noted that the Jesuit's career and reputation is forever damaged by the episode, "especially when a Catholic priest dismissed -- oh jeez, all this other stuff that's been going on with these priests, and this is awful, this is absolutely awful."

"I am extremely pained by the new ways that we can tell the public that we are dysfunctional," an emotional Cleaver told reporters off the House floor on Friday.

This story has been updated.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 480845

Reported Deaths: 6511
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin997381576
Ramsey42744796
Dakota35818383
Anoka33010383
Washington21862253
Stearns18683200
St. Louis14655262
Scott13119107
Wright12414114
Olmsted1170088
Sherburne866373
Carver756340
Clay683686
Rice664291
Blue Earth587235
Kandiyohi576674
Crow Wing514780
Chisago493644
Otter Tail479470
Benton441390
Winona414248
Mower400231
Douglas390768
Nobles385347
Goodhue383368
Polk341062
McLeod336349
Beltrami335350
Morrison321846
Lyon311543
Itasca308545
Becker307841
Isanti303453
Carlton298544
Steele297611
Pine280616
Freeborn276823
Nicollet252341
Todd244030
Brown240737
Le Sueur230520
Mille Lacs225747
Cass218124
Waseca206917
Meeker205534
Martin186728
Wabasha18543
Roseau178317
Hubbard159740
Houston156414
Dodge15124
Renville147340
Redwood146327
Fillmore13648
Chippewa135735
Cottonwood133520
Wadena128120
Pennington127016
Faribault121716
Aitkin117833
Sibley116410
Rock115513
Watonwan11518
Kanabec106719
Pipestone100724
Yellow Medicine97617
Murray9418
Jackson92510
Swift87218
Pope7885
Marshall76815
Stevens7378
Lake72617
Clearwater71514
Lac qui Parle68216
Wilkin66510
Koochiching61711
Big Stone5123
Lincoln5032
Grant4888
Norman4648
Mahnomen4377
Unassigned43668
Kittson40721
Red Lake3544
Traverse3015
Lake of the Woods2131
Cook1190

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 359747

Reported Deaths: 5357
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk57625545
Linn20536311
Scott18203205
Black Hawk16187286
Woodbury14875211
Johnson1374173
Dubuque13480194
Dallas1123790
Pottawattamie10716140
Story1012945
Warren550271
Clinton540783
Cerro Gordo531080
Webster515686
Marshall493772
Sioux491568
Buena Vista469736
Des Moines455059
Muscatine446789
Wapello4261107
Jasper406865
Plymouth393377
Lee373551
Marion356969
Jones293854
Henry292535
Carroll284048
Bremer276554
Crawford272035
Boone258230
Washington253145
Benton250454
Mahaska223145
Jackson220438
Dickinson216338
Tama211564
Kossuth206954
Clay192925
Hamilton191641
Delaware188539
Winneshiek186926
Fayette184033
Buchanan183630
Page181619
Hardin179638
Wright179131
Harrison178969
Cedar175522
Clayton168153
Butler165731
Floyd162439
Mills162420
Cherokee153535
Madison153418
Poweshiek153429
Hancock146529
Lyon145441
Iowa143823
Allamakee143644
Appanoose138447
Grundy138230
Jefferson137532
Winnebago137530
Calhoun133010
Cass132448
Mitchell130040
Louisa127941
Union125931
Chickasaw124613
Sac123718
Emmet120740
Shelby119933
Franklin118319
Humboldt116725
Guthrie116028
Montgomery104036
Palo Alto103921
Howard102421
Clarke99220
Keokuk97529
Unassigned9300
Monroe92628
Adair91626
Ida90732
Pocahontas85419
Davis82223
Monona81525
Greene76610
Lucas73121
Osceola70014
Worth6907
Taylor66312
Fremont5869
Decatur5729
Van Buren55818
Ringgold51416
Wayne48621
Audubon4839
Adams3244
Rochester/St. Mary'S
Clear
28° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 22°
Feels Like: 20°
Mason City
Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 31° Lo: 21°
Feels Like: 19°
Albert Lea
Partly Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 32° Lo: 17°
Feels Like: 17°
Austin
Partly Cloudy
27° wxIcon
Hi: 33° Lo: 16°
Feels Like: 18°
Charles City
Partly Cloudy
25° wxIcon
Hi: 34° Lo: 19°
Feels Like: 19°
Minor snow chances into the weekend
KIMT Radar
KIMT Eye in the sky

Latest Video

Image

Aaron's Thursday Evening Forecast

Image

Johnson & Johnson vaccine will be reviewed tomorrow

Image

Minnesota announces new vaccine timeline

Image

Assisted Living allowing visitors

Image

Iowa Vaccine rollout timeline

Image

Catalytic Converter Thefts Continue

Image

Community Kitchen Serves More Meals During The Pandemic

Image

MercyOne North Iowa Wait List For Vaccine

Image

LTC Facilities Advocate For Vaccinations

Image

02-25-2021 for Bri

Community Events