When the Senate took two of its most highly anticipated votes of the lame-duck session on Saturday, West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin was nowhere to be found.
Manchin, who was sworn into office last month after winning a special election for the seat of the late Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), was the only Senate Democrat to miss Saturday's votes on two of his party's signature pieces of legislation, the DREAM Act and the repeal of the "don't ask, don't tell" law banning gay people from serving openly in the military.
Sen. Joe Liberman (I-Conn.), who spearheaded the "don't ask, don't tell" repeal effort, told reporters Saturday afternoon that Manchin told him he'd be out of town for "a family thing."
A Manchin spokesperson told the Charleston Gazette that the senator and his wife had "planned a holiday gathering over a year ago with all their children and grandchildren as they will not all be together on Christmas Day."
"While he regrets missing the votes, it was a family obligation that he just could not break," spokesperson Sara Payne Scarbro said. "However, he has been clear on where he stands on the issues