Senators exchanged small tokens of holiday cheer in the second-annual Senate Secret Santa this week. But the American people can rest assured that lawmakers didn't get carried away with lavish trinkets.
With a budget crisis looming, members set a modest $10 spending limit for the holiday gifts. And even with the low spending bar, the legislators still managed to have a little fun.
"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 Minnesota Democrat Sen. Al Franken, the event's organizer. "Plus, I got a really great book from Sen. Lieberman. The goal this year was to build on that and bring senators together in the spirit of the holiday."
Sixty members (40 Democrats and 20 Republicans) put politics aside and exchanged an eclectic array of goodies.
The rules of engagement were simple. No Senator was "required by law to participate," but those who decided to join in the merriment were asked to keep their names under wraps.
"It is crucial that senators keep secret the identities of the senators they have chosen," the invitation read. "Senators may tell a spouse or a confidant who can assist in the selection or purchase of a gift. As we did last year, we considered the possibility that Independent Senators Sanders and Lieberman could simply gift each other, but decided once again that would ruin the suspense so crucial to any successful Secret Santa."
Franken says bringing the tradition to the Senate always conjures great childhood memories.
Franken bestowed a gift at the exchange, and he kept it local. He gave Arkansas Republican Sen. John Boozman a mahnomin porridge kit from Hell's Kitchen, a signature Minneapolis restaurant. Franken may have had some on hand as he serves the porridge every week at his constituent breakfast.
A delayed flight kept Boozman from making it to the celebration, but he brought mason jar wine glasses similar to the ones in the reality show Duck Dynasty to give to Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss because "everything tastes better out of a mason jar."
Franken received a VHS copy of Tunnel Vision, a movie he acted in, and a DVD of the documentary Harvard Beats Yale 29-29 from Wyoming Republican. Sen. John Barrasso.
Other noteworthy gifts included Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee's present to Vermont Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy, which was a Batman snuggie. To say Leahy is a Batman enthusiast would be putting it lightly. Leahy has acted in three Batman films and even narrated an episode of the animated series.
"[Senator Lee] thought it was appropriate given Senator Leahy's cameo in The Dark Knight, and since he's from the chilly state of Vermont," Lee's spokesman told U.S. News.
Eggnog, holiday treats, and fruitcake were also part of the celebration.
"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," the invitation added.
Lauren Fox is a political reporter for U.S. News and World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.