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The House Hearts Christmas

December 14, 2007 - by Donny Shaw

You may have heard that it is crunch time in Congress; the Senate and House have been racing to wrap up their work for the year by finishing, among other things, a $286 billion Farm Bill, the first increase in fuel efficiency standards in over three decades, a $933 billion bill to keep the government from shutting down and a plan for funding the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. But what you may not have heard is that in the midst of it all the House found time to hold a vote on a bill that does nothing but create a whole lot of controversy. On Tuesday the House, by a vote of 372-9, passed a resolution “recognizing the importance of Christmas and the Christian faith.”

The bill is in the form of a simple resolution, meaning that it only applies to one chamber (in this case, the House) and it does not bear the weight of law. It simply makes a statement, or, actually, several statements. Among them are, “the House of Representatives acknowledges the international religious and historical importance of Christmas and the Christian faith” and the House “expresses its deepest respect to American Christians and Christians throughout the world.”

This is one of those bills that was brought to my attention by our programmed blog-aggregating process here at OpenCongress. If people hadn’t begun blogging about it, it would not have shown up on the front page of OpenCongress and I may have missed it (I’ve been busy with our new Facebook app). But people did, and it’s up there sticking out like a sore thumb — the most blogged-about bill in the last seven days, beating the bill ranking second in that list by about 300 percent. In contrast, it’s not even close to making it to our front page for number of news posts or page views (although it’s currently moving up the ranks of most-viewed bills quickly).

I find the discrepancy between coverage in the blogs and mainstream news disheartening. That an outstandingly large number of people are taking the time to compose a blog post about this bill that does nothing is news-worthy in itself. Just like opinion polls, it shows clearly that the public is fed up with Congress’s inability to move beyond politics to actually work on the issues that matter to them.

The blog coverage of this bill that OpenCongress’s aggregator has been collecting is definitely worth reading. In the list you will find discussions on a Christian forum about whether or not the bill accurately defines Christianity, accusations against the Democrats who voted against this resolution and in favor of one that recognized the commencement of Ramadan and the general sentiment that resolutions like this are just a big waste of time.

Photo of the Capitol Christmas tree by a.e. wolf used under a Creative Commons license.

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