Wednesday, December 15, 2010


From Talking Points Memo:

To Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's suggestion that the Senate come back the week after Christmas isn't just a way to complete a busy lame duck agenda -- but an attack on people of the Christian faith.

"It is impossible to do all of the things that the majority leader laid out," Kyl said today, "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."

To be clear, Reid was suggesting the Senate come back for votes after Christmas and before this Congress ends on Jan. 4.

I'm no congressional historian, so I'm not sure how often, if ever, there's been a congressional session in the week between Christmas and New Year's -- when, as Steve Benen notes, most people with real jobs have to work -- but I do see from the Google news archives that there was talk of a post-Christmas session in 1944, to deal with issues such as Social Security and war powers; somehow, despite the fact that that heretical act was considered, God let us win the war anyway. In 1948, Harry Truman, newly returned to office by the voters, pressed the Senate Democratic Policy Committee to begin working on legislative strategy immediately after Christmas (ah, but Truman was a filthy Democrat, and the issues worked on included pro-labor legislation, though there used to be a time when Truman was considered a Real American, even by Republicans, because he was anti-commie).

And Richard Nixon, it seems, threatened to call Congress back to work just after Christmas at least three times -- in 1969, 1970, and 1971. Yes -- even though he was a Republican! Even though he and Billy Graham were like this! I guess Nixon hated Jesus as much as he hated Jews.


Frankly, while I'm not surprised that the Republicans are trying to shut down the government even before the new Congress convenes, I'm a little bit surprised at some of the tactics. I thought they'd be a lot more careful about setting up the talking points so it looked as if the whole shutdown was the fault of Obama and the Democrats. Jim DeMint's demand that the entire spending bill be read out loud actually strikes me as an effective tactic -- the notion that huge bills are passed without being read by members of Congress does annoy a lot of ordinary folks, not all of them teabaggers by any means, and the pork in the bill doesn't help it in PR terms (even if the Republicans are hypocrites because many of the earmarks are theirs).

However, demanding that the START treaty be read aloud ought to be a bridge too far -- the White House, notes, correctly, that the complete text has been available online since April 8 (PDF). If I were a Democrat, I'd be handing out T-shirts that senators could wear during the reading of the treaty that just contained a URL and a date:
Accessed April 8, 2010

But these are Democrats we're talking about, so they won't think of anything like that.

Still, in general, is this really when Republicans want to shut down the government? Last time they did this, ordinary Americans complained about not being able to see national monuments. Um, don't a lot of ordinary Americans with kids take vacation time during the week after Christmas precisely to see national monuments? Is this really likely to seem as if it's all the Democrats' fault?


UPDATE: DeMint backs down, at least on the threat to have the START treaty read aloud. It's unclear how much this tweet from Harry Reid's press secretary had to do with the climbdown:

# of hours to read START on Sen. floor = 12-15, # of comm. hearings DeMint missed on START = 7. No wonder he needs to have it read to him.

Oh, snap!

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