Kyl of Arizona vs. Jesus of Nazareth

Would the Son of Mary object to working on Christmas to prevent a nuclear war?

I won’t even pretend to be surprised that, once again, a Republican leader is trying to stir up the fears of the country’s Christian majority by imagining plots to denigrate Christianity. But John Kyl’s attempt to portray it as sacrilegious for the Senate to come back to work after Christmas – to deal with the backlog which Kyl and his colleagues have deliberately created – is even-more-than-usually lame.

Most Americans, of course, don’t find it a violation of their religious traditions to work during the week after Christmas, let alone the week after New Year’s. Even if they did, their employers wouldn’t put up with it. Perhaps Sen. Kyl is simply holier than the rest of us, and his religious sensibilities correspondingly more sensitive.

Sen. Reid doesn’t plan to have the Senate debate the START treaty on Christmas Day itself, but even if he did, I would refer Sen. Kyl to the words of a famous rabbi who was challenged by his more orthodox colleagues for healing the sick on a Saturday.

Is it lawful to do good on the sabbath days, or to do evil? To save life, or to kill?

Update Jim DeMented goes Kyl one better: he actually uses the word “sacrilegious.” Reid isn’t having any: “I don’t need the sanctimonious lectures of Sens. Kyl and DeMint to remind me of what Christmas means.”

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

29 thoughts on “Kyl of Arizona vs. Jesus of Nazareth”

  1. I am reminded of Colin Powell's outrage when the French tried to derail the American push toward war in Iraq at a U.N. Security Council meeting in mid-January 2002. Apparently advocating against war on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day is just disrespectful.

  2. As a conservative, a generally Republican-leaning voter, a Catholic, and a man who loves him some time off between Christmas and New Year's… I couldn't agree more. Kyl is being an ass (on the treaty issue in general, and this administrative question in particular).

    I myslef typically get to take the week after Christmas off because I get my F%@!&*$ work done for the year before Christmas. Funny how that works.

  3. My father worked many a Christmas, as a surgeon.

    The nurses don't all get the day off.

    If a storm is blowing, the power company workers fix the lines.

    Parents change the diapers on every day of the week, year, holy or not.

    What a shmuck that Kyl is.

  4. I would add that in some Protestant traditions, at least for a while, Christmas was not a holy day at all, being regarded as a Popish invention: the holy day was Sunday.

  5. Bravo for Sen. Kyl and his colleagues for stimulating the economy, and encouraging job growth.

    Sepulcher-whitening is about the only rapidly-growing, unskilled-labor-employing, kind of business out there, and they're tirelessly, shamelessly driving demand upwards for it.

  6. and how many service workers are off on either Christmas or the day after: bag handlers, cleaning hotel rooms, serving meals and cleaning tables, etc. for those so fortunate to get their tax break and travel for the holidays…like Christmas fruitcake, this makes me puke. And all the folk unemployed for the last two years, day off….they wish for Christmas day off.

  7. I think it's silly; Who needs to make it about 'sacrilege'? The simple fact that a lot of these chumps were kicked out by the voters is reason enough to shut down the joint until the newly elected members take office in January.

  8. DeMint: This is the most sacred holiday for Christians.

    DeMint seems to misunderstand the basic foundations of his faith. When I was growing up I was taught that Easter is the most sacred Christian holiday. Christmas is the most sacred holiday for Merchants. Maybe he's getting his faiths mixed up. Obstructionism is a tiring business.

  9. Who needs to? Kyl felt the need to.

    If Kyl wants to go home earlier, he can stop filibustering and vote on stuff. It's the chart the boat has been on since Jan 5 2009.

  10. Also:

    Matthew 12:11

    He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out?

    and

    Luke 14:5

    Then he turned to them and said, "Which of you doesn't work on the Sabbath? If your son or your cow falls into a pit, don't you rush to get him out?"

    and

    Luke 13:15

    The Lord answered him, "You hypocrites! Doesn't each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water?"

  11. I think it’s silly; Who needs to make it about ‘sacrilege’? The simple fact that a lot of these chumps were kicked out by the voters is reason enough to shut down the joint until the newly elected members take office in January.

    The Constitution says these folks are all members of Congress until the new terms start. Why do you hate the Constitution, Brett?

  12. The Constitution permits members of Congress to vote until their replacements take office. It doesn't require them to. It most especially doesn't require them to use that lame duck session as an opportunity to stick it to the votes with as much repudiated policies as possible.

    The Constitution permits much which isn't a good idea, or which is even actively offensive. Congress could enact a 100% tax on income up to $100,000 per year, and zero above that. And spend the resulting revenue on gold plated mansions for themselves. If I expressed the opinion that they shouldn't do this, would you declare that I hated the Constitution, just because such offenses were constitutional?

    I happen to think the Constitution is fairly nifty, though far from perfect. I think we'd be better off if it were actually complied with, in no small part because running a Leviathan state under a small government constitution requires staffing the Leviathan with people who are comfortable with violating the highest law of the land. But it is far from a comprehensive listing of everything good and noble. It's not even a start on that. It's just a general set of rules, which is perfectly capable of resulting in evil outcomes even if followed by evil people.

  13. These modern Republicans are … "camels that can't fit thru needle's eye", and they don't have to worry about being sacrilegious – they that support torture and lying – they're already earned their way to Hell.

    These Old Testament people act as if they've never read The New Testament.

  14. I'm not the best at strict constitutionalism, but I don't think that words 'repudiated policies' are in the Constitution.

    But kidding aside, I find it a bit galling that policies, such as repealing DADT which is supported by a majority of the US population, and are supported by a majority of Senators as well are considered repudiated.

    And we both know that much of the arglebargle is just the day to day gamesmanship, rather than actual attempts to govern well.

    As a bonus point, I'll ask why some policies are repudiated, thus don't get a vote, while other are so important they must be voted on now, or else – I'm looking at you, tax cuts.

    Bonus agreement – waiting till the lame duck session is, well, lame. Voters should have the right judge the votes of their elected politicians, and and cast their vote accordingly. (insert filibuster rant here)

  15. Brett also apparently believes that it is not only Constitutional, but reward-worthy, to allow obstructionism for the purpose of never holding votes. The Founders encouraged Senate rules that slowed down the process in order to allow for greater deliberation. They did not do so for the purpose of allowing a minority to prevent decisions from being made at all.

    Now, I happen to think that all of the obstruction is a bad idea, but also Constitutional. However, it is far more noxious than holding votes during the lame duck session. Brett disagrees. He wishes to reward the behavior through success. He believes that it is more offensive for Congress to work for its entire term.

    By the way, does anyone have an archive of Brett's opinion on the filibuster and other Senate delaying tactics circa 2005-06? I know that there are a lot of people, who claim to be adamant defenders of the Constitution, who declared that Senate delaying tactics were not merely a bad idea, but actually unconstitutional back then. Most of them are currently conspicuously silent on the subject right now. Is Brett one of them?

  16. No doubt Kyl and DeMint will be excused while the rest of the senate continues to do it's job. They are tired, need a rest and we can all use a rest from them too.

  17. "I’m not the best at strict constitutionalism, but I don’t think that words ‘repudiated policies’ are in the Constitution."

    That was my point: Something can be bad, while being permissible under the Constitution. That's not really a slam against the Constitution, it's just to say that it doesn't explicitly foreclose every conceivable negative action. Just because the voters have repudiated a policy, doesn't make it unconstitutional for the legislature to enact it anyway. Just small "d" undemocratic.

    "Bonus agreement – waiting till the lame duck session is, well, lame. Voters should have the right judge the votes of their elected politicians, and and cast their vote accordingly. (insert filibuster rant here)"

    According to Phil, you must hate the Constitution. That's my position on lame duck sessions: You had your chance to do this before the election, it's time for you to go home, and let the new team make the decisions. Lame duck sessions should never see but two categories of actions taking place:

    1. Actual EMERGENCY legislation; If Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor had taken place in an even numbered year, it would have been perfectly appropriate to convene a lame duck session, and declare war, instead of waiting until January.

    2. Simple, straightforward, kick the ball a couple months down the road legislation. Something which just keeps the status quo in place for a few months so that the next Congress can deal with what the last Congress didn't bother with. (Like passing a freaking budget.)

    As it happens, extending the tax cuts another two, three months would be an example of that. Extending them two YEARS is a bit too much like real policy for my taste, during a lame duck session.

    And enacting a several thousand page budget, filled with umpteen billion dollars in earmarks, and who knows what substantive changes in the law left unmentioned and hopefully overlooked until it's passed? I'd put that in the "repudiated" column, given that the Republicans got elected promising an end to earmarks, and some budget discipline. In fact, I'd put it in the "tenants ripping out the copper pipes before being evicted" category.

    No, just a simple continuing resolution, and GO HOME.

  18. The Constitution permits members of Congress to vote until their replacements take office. It doesn’t require them to. It most especially doesn’t require them to use that lame duck session as an opportunity to stick it to the votes with as much repudiated policies as possible.

    Which "repudiated policies" are we discussing here? DADT, the repeal of which is supported by more than three quarters of the electorate? Or START, which is endorsed by all former living Presidents and all the former Secretaries of State for the last 30 years?

    You had your chance to do this before the election, it’s time for you to go home

    Constitution says "time to go home" is Jan. 3. So it's your position that, from election day until the new session begins, the voters who elected the current officeholders should be deprived of representation in Congress? That for those three months, they don't have the right to have their policy preferences enacted while those Senators and Congressmen still represent them? Where is THAT in the Constitution?

    I’d put that in the “repudiated” column, given that the Republicans got elected promising an end to earmarks

    A promise which McConnell and others almost immediately backed off on JFTR. Tell you what, though: If that actually happens, I'll donate $50 to the charity of your choice.

  19. "Constitution says “time to go home” is Jan. 3."

    No, actually, it doesn't. It allows them to hang around until the last minute, it doesn't direct them to do so, and in the last 40-50 years they've actually refrained from lame duck sessions as often as they've held them. And the voters expressed their policy preferences last month, except insofar as emergencies dictate otherwise, they are entitled, (Though not as a constitutional matter.) to NOT have the guys they threw out of office trying to entrench policies they didn't think they could get away with before the election.

    Send the money to SENS, in the unlikely event the Republican party establishment doesn't disappoint the voters.

  20. Hewing to the letter of procedural details is 'OK for the GOP' but if Democrats do that it is 'an abuse of the system'. If the Democrats in the senate had pressed the envelope on procedure* and gotten things done by hook or by crook I'm quite sure the voters would not have been so unhappy with their performance. Sadly the time to hang tough and kick some a$$ has come and gone but better late than never, I guess.

    *like say, ramming through Medicare for all as a public option by using reconciliation

  21. And the voters expressed their policy preferences last month

    Nope. The Constitution says that their policy preferences don't count for anything until Jan. 3, 2011.

    except insofar as emergencies dictate otherwise,

    This is not in the Constitution.

    they are entitled . . . to NOT have the guys they threw out of office trying to entrench policies they didn’t think they could get away with before the election.

    If it's not in the Constitution, then they aren't entitled to shit, to put it bluntly. It may be what you wish would happen, but, well . . .

    Also, thanks for the lulz at "didn't think they could get away with." As if Republican obstructionism wasn't a thing.

  22. Lame, but not the worst sin. Brett, there have been many exceptional qualities about the latest Senate session. And by exceptional, I don't mean great, but outside the norms. I would have preferred the voting to occur before the election. Unfortunately, the Senate Republicans have filibustered and delayed so much that the calendar was clogged. So the response to that by Reid is to pack stuff into the lame duck. One lame turn deserves another.

    In basketball, they have the shot clock – for a reason.

    p.s. a 2-3 month tax extension is silly, even by your standards.

  23. For the past two years the Republicans have made it abundantly clear that they believe elections should have absolutely no consequences, but now that they've won one house of congress they have rediscovered the principle that elections actually do have consequences. I look forward to Republican temper tantrums in the Senate any time they are deprived of immediate up or down votes on any ridiculous piece of legislation that passes the House.

  24. "The simple fact that a lot of these chumps were kicked out by the voters is reason enough to shut down the joint until the newly elected members take office in January."

    This makes absolutely no sense in the Senate, where Kyl is ensconced, since the vast majority of members are returning. Should the Senate simply always cease to do business in the lame duck period even when only a single member has changed and no matter how pressing the agenda? And if you object to that, exactly how many members must change before the Senate cannot conduct business during the lame duck session: 2, 5, 10, 15 . . . ?

    And while we are at it, we should just suspend all court hearings after state elections whenever judges are replaced. That won't back up the courts at all!

    And perhaps an outgoing president should cease to function as Commander-in-Chief or anything else immediately upon finalization of election results or the day after the election if not running for re-election or ineligible for another term.

    If the Constitution meant for outgoing members to halt all activity until their replacements arrive, the Constitution would have provided for the taking of office by a newly elected member immediately after election day results are finalized.

    Sheesh!

  25. " . . . except insofar as emergencies dictate otherwise . . ."

    Every day we continue to kick out or not allow in qualified individuals who make our national defense team stronger, it is an emergency of monumental proportions that puts all Americans at risk of terrorist attack and that puts our service men and women at greater risk of harm on the battlefield.

    Every day ordinary Americans have to go without health care to treat curable, but otherwise fatal or debilitating diseases or injuries, is an emergency to that American and their family.

  26. Kyl just wants to celebrate the 12 days of Christmas.

    I agree with him– we should have a national holiday running from Christmas Eve to Jan 5 (Twelth Night).

    Close all the businesses– make merry and be of good cheer!

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