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News and Op/Ed

Jingle Bombs
House Republicans go to war.

(NJDC) War in Iraq, war against terrorism, war in Afghanistan, move over -- today, House GOP leaders have decided there is a more pressing war to attend to: the fictional war against Christmas, which apparently requires protection for Christmas symbols. And what happened when Democrats asked that the symbols of Chanukah be protected along with the symbols of Christmas? The House GOP simply said "no."

This afternoon, 26 House Republicans -- together with the GOP leadership -- will be forcing the full House to vote on whether House members support the "symbols and traditions" of Christmas, and whether they disapprove of the utterly mythical "attempts to ban references to Christmas." Today's roll call vote comes on the heels of a House floor debate held last night regarding H. Res. 579, a resolution "Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the symbols and traditions of Christmas should be protected." During the debate, Democratic members asked the Republican author of the resolution, Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-VA), if she would permit the symbols of Chanukah and other holidays to be included in the protection of the resolution -- and she refused.

"Yes, Virginia... and North Carolina, Oklahoma, New Jersey and others... your GOP representatives believe in the imaginary 'war on Christmas,' and apparently they think this is the best use of Congress' time," National Jewish Democratic Council Executive Director Ira N. Forman said earlier today. "And apparently they think nothing of pressing their Jewish House colleagues to actually cast a congressional vote in favor of Christian 'symbols and traditions,' and they refuse to offer the same supposed protections to the symbols of Chanukah. The House GOP will go to any length to erect a straw man for the sole purpose of knocking it down -- anything to avoid dealing with our country's all-too-real problems.

"In this case, House Republicans are adopting the talking points of the most extreme, most divisive far-right elements in today's society -- and making that agenda the work of the people's House. Aside from being a colossal waste of time, it's divisive, it excludes other practices and faiths, and it buys into the conservative fantasy that there's some war against the 95 percent of Americans (according to Gallup) who celebrate Christmas," Forman added.

Below, please find several statements made by House Democrats during last night's debate -- including a humorous poem read on the House floor by the longest-serving member of the House, Rep. John Dingell of Michigan. 

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY): 
"There are people around who need an enemy at all times to try to separate us one from the other as Americans in order to advance their own agenda. I do not think we should be playing into their hands. Nobody is attacking Christmas or its symbols.... I am really very saddened by the fact that when given the opportunity to expand this resolution that the sponsor demurred. I am not sure why. If you do not know and you are saying that you want this to be what this is because yours is the religion that has its symbols under attack, when was the last time you walked into Wal-Mart and saw it saying 'Happy Chanukah?' When did you walk into Toys 'R Us and see it saying 'Happy Kwanzaa?' Does that give me the right to say that my religion is under attack, the symbols of my faith or the holiday I wish to celebrate are under attack? It is not, and I am not going to be a crybaby and say that it is. To tell the truth, it is slightly offensive to see people trying to create a war and claiming they are attacked just so that they go on the offense instead of the defense. This is a prefabricated issue that has no merit. Nobody is attacking the symbols of Christmas. Are you objecting to our wanting to be included because the symbols of your religion are more important than the symbols of anybody else's religion in America? Or is it because you think that the symbols of your religion are more official? That is the danger in what we are doing."

Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA):
"Madam Speaker, this resolution purports to protect the symbols of Christmas, but what really needs to be protected are not the symbols of Christmas, but rather the spirit of Christmas. The spirit of Christmas demands generosity and goodwill towards others. Instead of legislation that respects the spirit of Christmas, Congress in just these past few weeks has passed a budget that includes mean-spirited attacks on the least of us. For those who are hungry, we are cutting food stamps. For those who are sick, we are cutting Medicaid. For those who are in prison, we are imposing senseless mandatory minimums. For others we are ignoring increases in heating costs and cutting student loans. At the same time we are cutting those programs to help the least of us, we are cutting taxes for the wealthiest in society. Madam Speaker, we ought to express our passion for Christmas through deeds, not words; and we should not be distracted from our responsibility to uphold the spirit of Christmas as we consider the effects our actions on the Federal budget will have on the least of us during this holiday season. For these reasons I oppose this resolution."

Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY):
"The bottom line is there was a good-faith effort made by [Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY)] to change 'recognizes the importance of the symbols and traditions of Christmas' to 'the symbols of Christmas and Chanukah,' and you said no. It was an attempt to change 'strongly disapproves of attempts to ban references to Christmas' to 'ban references to Christmas and Kwanzaa,' and you said no. It was a chance to take this and put it into the words that... [the resolution's sponsor] says that she intends. The question must be, why? For someone who does not celebrate Christmas, the question looms: Why? Why not say to someone who wants to make this inclusive that, indeed, we are going to make it inclusive? The symbols of Chanukah are not valuable? Sure, they are, I think. The symbols of Kwanzaa are not valuable to some? Sure, they are. I cannot imagine why the gentlewoman who is the sponsor of this, who says that she speaks from a sense of inclusion, would not want to include those. Are those not worthy of being protected? What is the message that is being sent?"

Rep. John Dingell (D-MI):
"Madam Speaker, I have a little poem. 

'Twas the week before Christmas and all through the House, 
no bills were passed `bout which Fox News could grouse. 
Tax cuts for the wealthy were passed with great cheer, 
so vacations in St. Barts soon should be near. 

Katrina kids were all nestled snug in motel beds, 
while visions of school and home danced in their heads. 
In Iraq, our soldiers need supplies and a plan, 
and nuclear weapons are being built in Iran. 

Gas prices shot up, consumer confidence fell. 
Americans feared we were in a fast track to ..... well. 
Wait, we need a distraction, something divisive and wily, 
a fabrication straight from the mouth of O'Reilly. 

We will pretend Christmas is under attack, 
hold a vote to save it, then pat ourselves on the back. 
Silent Night, First Noel, Away in the Manger, 
Wake up Congress, they're in no danger. 

This time of year, we see Christmas everywhere we go, 
From churches to homes to schools and, yes, even Costco. 
What we have is an attempt to divide and destroy 
when this is the season to unite us with joy. 

At Christmastime, we're taught to unite. 
We don't need a made-up reason to fight. 
So on O'Reilly, on Hannity, on Coulter and those right-wing blogs. 
You should sit back and relax, have a few egg nogs. 

'Tis the holiday season; enjoy it a pinch. 
With all our real problems, do we really need another Grinch? 
So to my friends and my colleagues, I say with delight, 
a Merry Christmas to all, and to Bill O'Reilly, happy holidays. 
Ho, ho, ho. Merry Christmas."