NPR logo Senators Stage Partisan Fight Over True Meaning Of Christmas

Senators Stage Partisan Fight Over True Meaning Of Christmas

As if the nation's elected officials weren't busy enough in these frantic final days of the 111th Congress, now they're taking up time debating whether it's proper to do the peoples' business so close to Christmas.

Yes, that is an actual kerfuffle - a game of who's holier than whom - playing out in the halls of the Senate this week.

It began with Republican senators Jim DeMint of S. Carolina and Jon Kyl of Arizona strongly suggesting that efforts by Senate Democrats to get a 2011 spending bill as well as a nuclear-arms reduction treaty passed before the holiday break was somehow anti-Christmas.

In fact, DeMint on Wednesday suggested it was downright "sacrilegious."

On Tuesday, Kyl accused Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat, of setting up a voting schedule on the issues that would disrespect "one of the two holiest of holidays for Christians."

Reid has suggested he would keep the Senate in session beyond its planned Friday recess to get work done.

By Wednesday afternoon, an annoyed Reid took to the Senate floor to call out his Republican colleagues for what he characterized as sanctimonious whining - and suggested that the holiday-as-an-excuse delay in acting on the START Treaty and the omnibus spending bill may not play well with Americans who "don't get two weeks off, let alone one week off for Christmas."

Excerpts of Reid's comments from the floor, as provided by his office:

“As a Christian, no one has to remind me of the importance of Christmas for all Christian faiths and families across America.

“I do not need to hear the sanctimonious lectures of Senators Kyl and DeMint to remind me of what Christmas means.

“My question is where were their concerns about Christmas as they led filibusters on every major piece of legislation this Congress.

“Senate Republicans need look no further than themselves in casting blame for the predicament we are in right now.

“In this Congress, Republicans have waged 87 filibusters. They have used every trick in the book to delay legislation.

“In 15 minutes we are going to proceed to the START Treaty. Senator DeMint is going to make us read the entire treaty, in an effort to stall us from passing it.

“Then Senate Republicans are going to make us read the bill we need to pass in order to fund the government

“These are additional days of wasted time we could be using to pass legislation and get home for the holidays.

“Yet some of my Republican colleagues have the nerve to whine about having to stay and actually do the work the American people pay us for?

“Perhaps Senators Kyl and DeMint have been in Washington too long because in my state Nevadans employed in casinos and hotels have to work hard on holidays, including Christmas, to support their families.

“Most people don’t get two weeks off yet alone one week off for Christmas. And those people who are lucky enough to have a job in these trying times need to work extra hours just to make ends meet.

“So it is deeply offensive to me and millions of working Americans across this country for any Senator to suggest that working through the Christmas holiday is somehow ‘sacrilegious’ or ‘disrespectful.’

“The path to finishing this year lies in the hands of Senator Kyl, Senator DeMint and any other Senate Republican who are trying run out the clock or run out the door without finishing the American people’s business.

“If they decide to work with us we can all have a happy holiday.”