Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 31, 2014

Booze, Books, Model Cars Traded Among Senate Secret Santas

Senators briefly set aside their budget deal bickering on Tuesday night for the chamber’s third annual “Secret Santa” gift exchange, organized by Minnesota Democrat Al Franken.

The holiday spirit inspired more than 60 senators to participate, roaming the marble corridors of the second floor with packages containing booze, food, dog toys and model vehicles after enjoying the Christmas cookie spread at the reception.

Vermont Democrat Patrick J. Leahy bellowed out “ho, ho, ho” as he breezed in and out, clutching a new Batman figurine from New Hampshire Republican Kelly Ayotte to add to his extensive collection. 

Texas Republican John Cornyn picked up a “nice bottle of white wine” from Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal. “I’m sure it’s within the $15 limit, though,” he said, referring to the cap on the exchange.

South Carolina Republican Tim Scott joked that the set of presidential Pez candy dispensers he received from Connecticut Democrat Christopher S. Murphy were a way to “sweeten” relations across the aisle. The toys were made in Orange, Conn.

Scott’s gift for Delaware Democrat Chris Coons sounded a bit more serious: “He and I spent some time talking at [Nelson] Mandela’s funeral and so I got him a book on some of the topics that we discussed.”

The box of Nebraska Cornhusker chocolates that New York Democrat Charles E. Schumer opened from Nebraska Republican Deb Fischer brought back “very nice memories” from the football game he once attended in Lincoln, Neb., he said.

Schumer got New Hampshire Democrat Jeanne Shaheen a bobblehead doll of Gen. John Stark, “the Revolutionary War hero who came up with the phrase ‘Live Free or Die,’” he quipped.

Michigan Democrat Carl Levin patronized Detroit’s first licensed distillery since Prohibition, Two James, for his present to North Dakota Republican John Hoeven. Levin declared the liquor “further proof that Detroit is coming back strong.”

Texas Republican Ted Cruz looked forward to tearing into buffalo jerky with cranberries and pepper from South Dakota Democrat Tim Johnson.

North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp seemed a little less than enthusiastic about the bag of grapefruit given to her by Florida Democrat Bill Nelson. She joked, “I don’t know if people are trying to send me a message or not.”

Heitkamp said she bought Ohio Republican Rob Portman a “really groovy” model Rolls Royce.

Portman passed along some Ohio-brewed beer, barbecue sauce, jam and the state’s signature Buckeye chocolates to Arkansas Democrat Mark Pryor.

Maine Independent Angus King unwrapped a toy Harley-Davidson from Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin. She did her homework, choosing the same model and color as the motorcycle King rode during a 400-mile tour of his state.

King gave Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski pancake mix, maple syrup and blueberry jam produced in Maine. He said the spread can serve as her Christmas breakfast.

Montana Democrat Max Baucus came out of the gift exchange clutching new toys from Louisiana Republican David Vitter for his canine. Baucus picked out an assortment of products related to Bozeman, Mont., to fill a goodie bag for Arkansas Republican John Boozman.

Maine Republican Susan Collins received a bottle of wine and a cleverly inscribed book from Virginia Democrat Mark Warner. The two have joined forces on the Common Sense Coalition, but share a running joke about the name.

“I don’t like it being called a gang, so he gave me a book called ‘Gang Leader for a Day’ and he signed it, ‘To my favorite non-gang leader,’ which is very clever,” she said.

West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin III gave Florida Republican Marco Rubio two pieces of coal, carved in a political manner.  Repeating his 2011 gift to Schumer, a colleague pointed out, Manchin wrapped up a donkey and an elephant. But the present took a tumble during transport, he reported.

“The donkey was broken … the elephant is still alive and kicking.”

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