Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's plan to work on a federal spending bill Sunday is drawing jeers from other members and staff who call it an affront to Christians in the Senate. Angry Republicans are letting the late Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd speak for them through a 2004 speech in which he said Sundays are for church, not partisan budget bickering in Congress.
Reid announced the Sunday session this morning as he was laying out plans to pass the tax compromise, take up consideration of the START nuclear arms deal, the DREAM Act, and the long-overdue fiscal 2011 budget. In his morning address, he also asked that no senator ask that the whole START treaty be read on the floor of the Senate, reasoning that members have had long enough to read it in their offices.
Republicans aren't publicly whining, but instead are distributing the Byrd speech and a clip from Ghostbusters warning that the city will face mass hysteria of Biblical proportions if a Sunday session is held.
The Byrd speech, given when Democrats were in the minority and Republicans were in control, is considered a classic from the Senate expert who died in June. In the speech, pasted in below, he notes that the Senate has had months do talk and vote, making a Sunday session silly. He also said that holding session was an affront to Christians working in the Senate. Check it out below:
SEN. ROBERT BYRD (D-WV): "I will be brief. I am not sure I will use 5 minutes. Mr. President, in my office hangs the Ten Commandments. We have heard a lot about the Ten Commandments in recent years. I believe in the Ten Commandments. I believe we ought to respect those commandments, one of which says: Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy.
"I am not saying I am a good man. My Bible says that no man is good. No man is good. But I think we ought to show some respect to those Christians in the body, and in our country, and many people who are not Christians, our Jewish friends, who believe in the Ten Commandments. As a matter of fact, the Ten Commandments originate, as we know, at the time when Moses went up on Mount Sinai and was given the tablets by God himself, by the Almighty himself. So we believe that. I am a Christian. I may not be the best one around. I don't claim to be. But I do claim to be a Christian. I believe that way, and I believe that we ought to observe the Ten Commandments.
"I think that this body, as the greatest legislative body in the world, together with the other body, in particular should set an example of respecting the various religions that make up our nation. That is why I take the floor today. I think we are setting a bad example. I don't think we are showing proper respect to Christians in our country, and all over the world, for that matter, by publicly failing to observe that Commandment, that we keep the Sabbath Day holy and remember it. I want to say I am protesting the fact that we are going to have a vote on tomorrow. I told my leadership I had hoped we wouldn't have votes on tomorrow. I also offered to say, Well, it is fine to have votes after sundown. The old Sabbath ran until sundown. Let's have any votes after sundown. If we have to have votes, let's have them after sundown. I asked my leaders to consider that. They did, and for various reasons they decided not to--that we had to have the vote.
"I have to say as majority leader, when I was majority leader, I could have easily put this vote over to Monday simply by adjourning and not coming in tomorrow--which I would do, in this case. If this were an emergency, if something suddenly came up and it was a dire emergency, of course. You know the Bible says the ox may be in the ditch and we have to get it out of the ditch. But the ox is not in the ditch here. We have wasted a lot of time this year, and recently. We waste a lot of time. We are not in session when we could be in session. Then all of a sudden, here we are going to have this vote on Sunday . There are practicing Christians who like to go to church and want to observe this commandment.
"So I say of course I will be in to vote. I have cast more rollcall votes than any other senator in the history of the country. I guess I will not miss this one. But I am protesting. It could have been otherwise. It didn't have to be. It didn't have to happen tomorrow. We could have had it earlier. We jam these. We have a way around here in the Senate lately of jamming. The leadership on the other side--I have to say the Republicans are in control of the body--they have a way of jamming us. Maybe we are all at fault a little bit. But there is no reason why we should have to come in on a Sunday, on the Sabbath, and have roll call votes. I protest it today. I hope it won't be done again after this year. I hope I will still be living and still be serving in the body. I hope leadership will take this into consideration in the future and get our work done before the Sabbath comes and avoid having meetings on the Sabbath Day. It just isn't necessary. It is not a dire emergency. If it were, as I said, and the ox were in the ditch, I would say let us get it out and let us go in and vote. If it is important to the safety of the Nation, to the safety of the American people, or whatever, dire, we have to do it, of course. I think the Almighty would waive the Commandment as far as that is concerned.
"I understand we have duties, but I don't think it has to be done now. I want to complain about the way we have done the business of the Senate--lagged along and dragged along and come in and have voting sessions on late Tuesday or Wednesday or Thursday, and we go out on Friday. We don't come in until Monday late. There are all kinds of reasons which I will bring up at another time perhaps and talk again about it. I am not thinking at this point that we are going to be able to waive this unless the majority leader will be of a mind to put this vote over until Monday. … Mr. President, I don't see why we can't have the vote today, or if not today, move it over until Monday. That could be done. The majority leader can easily do this, no question about it. I could do it when I was majority leader. I respect the majority leader, and I respect his doing whatever he has to do, but I am saying that a stitch in time would save nine. As one Senator, I say that we should uphold the Commandments. I have always felt that side of the aisle and this side of the aisle are highly observant of the 10 Commandments and make a big to-do about religion in this country. Why don't we have a little religion here today and put this vote over from tomorrow and not come in on Sunday? Can't we do that?"
(Sen. Byrd, Congressional Record, S.10925, 10/9/04)