The Washington Times - March 14, 2013, 12:42PM

House Speaker John Boehner politely declined Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s invitation to join him on a trip next week to the Vatican for the investiture of Pope Francis.

While Mr. Boehner said he was grateful for the invitation and would have liked to be able to join the trip, his duties in the House next week prevent him from joining Mr. Biden. The GOP leader said he is hosting President Obama and the prime minister of Ireland at the Capitol Tuesday, and the ongoing debate over the budget made the trip “impossible.”

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“I wish the vice president all the best in his journey and hope he communicates the prayers and warm regards of every American, especially Catholics, to the first pope from the Americas.”

Mr. Obama offered the trip invitation as a gesture of bipartisan good will Wednesday during the president’s meeting with House Republicans. As part of his ongoing outreach efforts to Republicans, Mr. Obama plans to meet with the Senate GOP Thursday.

Emerging from the Wednesday meeting with the president, Mr. Boehner, a Roman Catholic, offered the new pope warm wishes and congratulations.

“I’m happy they were able to come to a choice as quickly as they did,” he continued when pressed for a longer reaction. “I think reaching out beyond the traditional continent of our church is commendable and is best and the right direction for the church.”