UPDATE 12/20/10 @ 6 p.m.
WASHINGTON, D.C. (WSAZ) -- The controversial vote to allow gay service men and women to openly serve in the military has the nation talking, but here at home the talk is also about the vote that didn't happen.
Newly minted Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin was a no-show in the Senate on Saturday. He attended an already planned family Christmas party instead.
"I had a commitment to my grandchildren that I thought I couldn't miss," Manchin says.
But the decision has several people speaking out, including the West Virginia AFL-CIO which usually backs Manchin.
Kenny Perdue, the president of the AFL-CIO, issued a statement saying in part:
"Unfortunately Senator Joe Manchin isn't demonstrating characteristics of a great Senator during his first month in office. It's a job that encompasses voting on important issues, not avoiding work on the days tough issues are decided."
West Virginia GOP Chair Mike Stuart said, "I think the person he replaced would be very troubled by the fact that he chose to skip an important session of congress to be in Pittsburgh at a holiday party."
Sen. Robert Byrd would wheel himself to the floor of the Senate to cast crucial votes.
But Manchin says his vote wouldn't have altered the outcome, and it wouldn't have.
He says he would have gone against his party and voted no to repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.
"They (military leaders) thought the timing of it could jeopardize the mission, so I voted against it and I had voted against it before," Manchin says. "Had I been there, I would have voted against it again."
Three Republicans also missed the vote.
Lawmakers do miss days from time to time. During the past two years, Representative Nick Rahall has missed two full days. Representative Shelley Moore Capito has missed three full days. Sen. Jay Rockefeller has missed 18 full days over the past two years, but much of that was in 2009 when he had to have emergency knee surgery.
Manchin was not in Washington when the U.S. Senate voted to overturn the military ban on openly gay troops, and to block a bill to provide hundreds of thousands of young illegal immigrants a path to legal status by enrolling in college or joining the military.
Manchin was at odds with most Democrats on both issues.
The former governor released statements Saturday saying he could not support repealing the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy or "Dream Act" immigration bill.
Manchin spokeswoman Sara Payne Scarbro said he was at a family holiday gathering. She said he regretted missing the votes, but could not break the family obligation.
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