[TPM SLIDESHOW: It's Over: Senate Repeals Don't Ask, Don't Tell]
Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) told reporters at a press conference that Manchin said he had an out-of-town "family thing" and wouldn't make the votes, according to the Washington Post.
Manchin spokesman Sara Payne Scarbro elaborated to the Charleston Gazette in an email, saying that he and his wife "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," Scarbro said. "However, he has been clear on where he stands on the issues."
Christmas has been a rather touchy subject among some senators this season, with Republicans Jon Kyl (AZ) and Jim DeMint (SC) expressing outrage that Reid suggested the Senate work the week of Christmas. DeMint even called it "sacrilegious." Reid responded: "I don't need to hear the sanctimonious lectures of Sen. Kyl and [Sen. Jim] DeMint to remind me of what Christmas means."
Which might be why NRSC Communications Director Brian Walsh put out a rather sarcastic statement about Manchin's absence:
I'm sure that most Senators, as well as the hundreds of staffers who had to come to work today, would have rather been at a Christmas Party like Joe Manchin. But perhaps in Joe Manchin's world today was a win-win -- not only was he able to skip work and party, but he was also able to avoid voting on two very sensitive political issues. For a Senator who has only been on the job a few weeks, Manchin's absence today, and the apparent lack of seriousness with which he takes the job he was elected to do, speaks volumes.