Senate Christmas Wars

December 15, 2010

With Republicans in the U.S. Senate filibustering all legislation until the tax bill compromise was worked out, little has been done yet in this "lame duck" session. Thus, Senate Majority Harry Reid is now threatening to keep them in session longer and even bring the Senators back quickly after Christmas instead of a traditional longer break. Republican Jon Kyl responded by suggesting that Reid hates Christmas:

It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out without doing — frankly, without disrespecting the institution and without disrespecting one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians and the families of all of the Senate, not just the senators themselves but all of the staff.
Playing a similar note, Republican Jim DeMint invoked Christmas to justify his opposition to START, the proposed treaty designed to decrease the number of nuclear weapons in the world. DeMint argued:
You can't jam a major arms control treaty right before Christmas. ... What's going on here is just wrong. This is the most sacred holiday for Christians.
With Reid being Mormon, the insinuations of Kyl and DeMint come awfully close to playing on the religious divide between Mormons and many Christians--even though Christmas is very important to Mormons. DeMint's comment is also odd because I thought Easter was the most sacred holiday for Christians, with Christmas being second. Reid quickly fired back in religious terms:
As a Christian, no one has to remind me of the importance of Christmas for all of the Christian faith, for all their families, all across America. ... I don't need to hear the sanctimonious lectures of Sen. Kyl and [Sen. Jim] DeMint to remind me of what Christmas means. Where were their concerns about Christmas [when they were posing] filibuster after filibuster of every piece of legislation during this entire Congress?
Reid's response falls into the trap of confessional politics by trying to prove that he, too, is a Christian who loves the baby Jesus. Using Christmas to gain political points seems to run quite counter to the whole reason for the season. All that fighting (especially to keep an obscene number of nuclear weapons) seems to run quite counter to the Christmas message of peace on earth and goodwill to all. The Two Futures Project, an evangelical Christian group working toward the abolition of nuclear weapons, gathered statements from several Christian leaders urging politicians not to use Christmas to gain a political advantage regarding START. Those speaking out include Michael Kinnamon of the National Council of Churches, Joel Hunter, and Jim Wallis. It is time to debate the legislation on the merits and leave Christmas out of the debate.

UPDATE [12-16-10]: Conservative Joe Scarborough criticized the Senators invoking Christmas as part of their opposition to specific policies for being "offensive," "baseless," and "unChristlike." He advised the Republicans making this argument to just "shut their mouth." He also wondered why the Senators could not celebrate Christmas in D.C., but he phrased it in a way that many might be tempted to answer differently than Scarborough was intending: "Does Jesus not live in Washington, D.C.? Can they not worship Jesus in Washington, D.C.?" Sounding an even odder note, Vice President Joe Biden declared, "I understand Christmas. I have been a senator for a long time." Guess, he did not understand Christmas before becoming a senator!