The franking commission will no longer use its proverbial red pen to strike festive sentiments from House members’ communications.
Reversing a policy that prohibited “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah” from appearing in taxpayer-paid mail, the Commission on Congressional Mailing Standards announced Wednesday a change in course this holiday season.
According to a letter from the House Administration Committee, “effective immediately, Members may include incidental holiday greetings in their official constituent communications.” The new policy still prohibits sending Christmas cards or other communications for the “sole purpose” of expressing a holiday greeting, but simple salutations are allowed.
House Administration Chairwoman Candice S. Miller spread word of the “common-sense” rule change in a video for constituents.
“Since we begin every session of Congress with a prayer, and ‘In God We trust’ is stamped, in stone actually, above the speaker’s chair at the front of the House of Representatives, I just could never understand why such a greeting would not be allowed in communication with my constituents,” said the Michigan Republican, sporting a festive red sweater.
“I feel that it is entirely appropriate for members of Congress to include a simple holiday salutation, whether it’s ‘Merry Christmas,’ ‘Happy Hanukkah,’ or whatever holiday we may be celebrating at the time.”
Though Miller refers to the barring of holiday greetings as a “little-known fact” in her three-minute video, the policy drew outcry from conservatives in 2011.
In December of that year, when California Republican Dan Lungren was chairman of the committee, the franking commission sent out a memo reiterating guidelines on holiday messaging. At the time “Happy Holidays” was permissible, but “Merry Christmas” was not.
Back then, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly included the news in his annual “War on Christmas” commentary, calling the message “incredibly dumb.”
Miller, who took the House Administration gavel in January 2013, frames the new policy as a “very simple, but meaningful change” and said she looks forward to “much more bipartisan and commonsense cooperation over the upcoming year.”
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.