Sen. Al Franken, Sen. Mike Johanns lead successful Secret Santa effort
NEWS RELEASE — Washington, D.C. — The Senate doesn’t appear to be a model of yuletide cheer right now.
Faced with budget negotiations, filibuster changes and immigration reform, both parties have been struggling with gridlock and divisiveness.
Well, take this, Scrooges: Sens. Al Franken (D-Minnesota) and Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska) held the second annual Senate Secret Santa on Monday.
“As Congress is trying to come together in a more bipartisan fashion, this exchange is a small step toward that end. And I’m hopeful it bodes well for the coming year,” Sen. Chuck Schumer said.
Sen. Franken was optimistic. “Last year’s Secret Santa did exactly what it was supposed to: create comity and good cheer in an institution badly in need of both,” he said.
This year, 60 senators turned out for the name-drawing in November — 40 Democrats and 20 Republicans. In keeping with last year’s efforts to break partisan ties, Democrats were paired with Republicans and vice versa. The senators were limited to $10 gifts.
Sens. Kay Hagan, Tom Udall and Mike Enzi — who last year said he thought the swap “was too gimmicky” but got in on the fun — endorsed the exchange. They joked on the invitation: “No Senator would be required by law to participate,” but they hoped many would.
The invitation also joked that they “considered the possibility that Independent Senators [Bernie] Sanders and [Joe] Lieberman could simply gift each other but decided once again that would ruin the suspense so crucial to any successful Secret Santa.”
Franken said the exchange was aimed at building on the spirit of bipartisanship “and [bringing] senators together in the spirit of the holiday.” He added, “Plus, I got a really great book from Sen. Lieberman.”
Last year, Sen. Joe Manchin got lumps of coal in a stocking, or rather, a sock from Sen. Mark Udall. But don’t give Manchin much pity because he, too, gifted coal — two pieces carved into the shapes of a donkey and an elephant to Schumer, which Manchin thinks is “such a great gift.” He said, “As long as I’m there, I hope my gift will always be coal.”
Still, Schumer hasn’t let last year’s coal club get him down. He said Monday: “The Secret Santa gifts are a nice gesture around the holidays and a way to give other senators a little part of our states.”
Coal wasn’t the only cheap gift last year. Sen. Mary Landrieu received an empty popcorn box from Sen. Kent Conrad, Budget Committee chairman. He said, “Look, I think we have to all tighten our belts … because of the European debt crisis.” And the box looked like it had been regifted — it had Sen. Dick Durbin’s name on it.
This year, Manchin said, Franken deserves the best gift for “bringing a little bit of camaraderie and goodwill to the Senate.”
Franken had high spirits about the exchange: “The feelings of bonhomie and good cheer will be enhanced by eggnog and other holiday treats, including a fruitcake that the Senate kitchen started on two months ago.”
Sen. John Boozman is staying away from coal. Sara Lasure, his spokeswoman, said Monday that he is “gifting mason jars that look like wine glasses. He said he got the idea from the popular TV show ‘Duck Dynasty.’ … The guys on the show drink out of mason jars. I am told the guys on the show use them for fancy occasions and say everything tastes better out of a mason jar.”
Sen. Franken received a VHS copy of the movie Tunnel Vision and a DVD of “Harvard Beats Yale 29-29” from Sen. Barasso. Sen. Franken gave Sen. Boozman a mahnomin porridge kit from Hell’s Kitchen, a popular restaurant in Minneapolis. Sen. Franken serves the breakfast porridge at his weekly breakfast with constituents.
Co-hosting with Sen. Franken this year were Sens. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.), Kay Hagan (D-N.C.), and John Boozman (R-Ark.).
Sixty senators participated—40 Democrats and 20 Republicans. Democratic senators were paired with Republican senators, with a few overlaps as the numbers didn’t quite add up. The senators exchanged their gifts—which cannot exceed $10 in value—at a holiday Monday evening. Eggnog, holiday treats, and fruitcake were served.
Sen. Franken used to participate in Secret Santa at grade school when he was growing up in Minnesota. He first came up with the idea to have a Secret Santa last year in an effort to promote bipartisan comity between his colleagues.
Here’s is a statement from Sen. Franken about Secret Santa:
“Last year’s Secret Santa did exactly what it was supposed to do: create comity and good cheer in an institution badly in need of both,” said Sen. Franken. “Plus, I got a really great book from Sen. Lieberman. The goal this year is to build on that and bring senators together in the spirit of the holiday.”