Rep. Walsh on crusade for Christmas, Hanukkah mailing

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Congressman Joe Walsh during a town hall meeting at the Barrington Park District. | Jerry Daliege~for Sun-Times Media

Jerry Daliege/Sun-Times Media

Should members of Congress be able to say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” in taxpayer-funded newsletters to their constituents?

Rep. Joe Walsh, R-McHenry, was incensed to learn that he could not under current House rules. So he sent letters to all members of Congress Monday afternoon asking them to join his crusade to change the rules.

“It’s not just silly, it’s fairly outrageous that a congressman can’t say, ‘Merry Christmas’ or ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ to constituents,” said Walsh, a hero of the Tea Party movement of conservative Republicans.

The House Franking Commission sets the rules – different than those in the U.S. Senate, Walsh said. The commission is chaired by Walsh’s fellow Illinois Republican Aaron Schock.

“We’re instructed that use of the phrase ‘Happy Holidays’ is allowed,” Walsh said. “This strikes me as political correctness run amok.”

The rule Walsh wants to change dates to 1974.

Democrats and Republicans have been signing on to the effort led by Walsh and Arkansas Democrat Mike Ross, Walsh said.

“The outrage is fairly bipartisan,” Walsh said.

Members are up against a stiff deadline to change the rule – they must get their mailings out 90 days before an election. That means by Wednesday for congressmen representing Illinois with its March 20 primary election. The deadline is to prevent incumbent congressmen using the taxpayer-funded mailings to help their re-election campaigns.

Walsh recently announced he will run for re-election in the newly drawn Schaumburg-based 8th Congressional district, which includes only some parts of the current 8th District he represents. If he wins the Republican primary election, he will likely face either Tammy Duckworth or Raja Krishnamoorthi in the general election in the district Illinois Democrats drew to elect a Democrat.

Asked about Walsh’s effort to change the rules on mailings, Krishnamoorthi said Monday, “Let me get this straight: The payroll tax cut is expiring in 10 days, and he’s worried about issues of religion? If that expires, it will cost families $1,000 per household.” A Duckworth spokesperson could not be reached immediately for comment.

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