Democrat Accused of Voting “Present” on Christmas

For the second time in a week, Republican Anne Northup has criticized U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, a Democrat, for failing to support a 2007 federal resolution honoring Christmas.

Northup, 60, who is seeking to regain Louisville’s 3rd District congressional seat that she lost to Yarmuth two years ago, mentioned the vote yesterday in a meeting with The Courier-Journal editorial board.

She also questioned Yarmuth about it Friday in a debate at the Louisville Forum.

“I don’t know why he didn’t vote for Christmas,” she said in yesterday’s interview with the editorial board which was broadcast live on the newspaper’s Web site. She noted Yarmuth previously had voted for resolutions honoring Muslim and Hindu religious observances.

Yarmuth, 60, said yesterday Northup’s comments — coming nearly a year after the vote and about three weeks before the election — “seem less a sincere concern than a pure political attack.”

He said he voted “present” instead of in favor of the December 2007 Christmas resolution because he thought it “failed to properly honor a sacred religious holiday,” according to a statement from spokesman Christopher Hartman. Yarmuth was one of eight House members who voted present.

Yarmuth offered a similar explanation Oct. 10 before the Louisville Forum, where Northup used her single chance to question her opponent to ask him about his vote on the Christmas resolution.

“You were there but you couldn’t bring yourself to vote for that resolution,” Northup said.

Yarmuth, appearing exasperated, said he voted present to protest what he thought was a resolution that trivialized Christmas because it followed “meaningless” resolutions, such as one designating “Watermelon Month” and another creating “National Marina Day.”

“When we had much more serious problems to deal with, I decided to vote present as a way to protest,” he said.

Resolutions honoring people or events are common in Congress.

Yarmuth later issued a letter of apology to constituents, saying his vote of present on Christmas — while voting in favor of resolutions such as the one honoring Ramadan, the Islamic holy month — was not meant to slight other religions as less important.

Yarmuth used his single question to Northup at the debate to ask her about her proposal to allow private investment of some Social Security funds.

Northup yesterday told the editorial board she was skeptical of Yarmuth’s “various explanations” on the Christmas vote and said she believes it shows he’s “too liberal.”

“There are some people who feel that Republicans and Christians and Evangelicals are somehow all aligned and he’s on the other side,” she said.

Northup insisted her criticism about the Christmas vote has nothing to do with the fact the Yarmuth is Jewish, saying “No, no, no!”

Neither Northup nor a campaign spokesman could be reached late yesterday.

Yarmuth, in his letter last year to constituents explaining his vote, said he is very respectful of Christians and Christmas.

“I’ve celebrated Christmas all my life and some of my best memories both as a child and a parent are of waking up Christmas morning and unwrapping presents under our family tree,” it said.

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