A Newfound Importance For A Longstanding Senate Tradition — The Candy Drawer

Jan 21, 2020
Originally published on January 21, 2020 8:04 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Twenty-four hours over three days - that's how long each side gets to make its case in the Senate impeachment trial.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

The folks on Capitol Hill are not just considering the future of a presidency. They are working a string of very long days. What do you need when you're still stuck in the office for hours on end?

SHAPIRO: Obviously, a snack - NPR's Sam Gringlas brings us the tale of the U.S. Senate candy drawer.

SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: For members of the U.S. Senate, there's a convenient spot where you can grab a sugar fix, any time of day, right on the Senate floor. It's called the Senate candy desk.

STEVE KELLY: So right now, we have Hershey's with almonds, Rolos. The peanut butter cups go pretty quickly.

GRINGLAS: That's Steve Kelly. He's the communications director for Senator Pat Toomey, a Republican of Pennsylvania. Toomey sits at the Senate candy desk.

KELLY: It looks like a older-school desk. You lift it open, and there's just a giant drawer of candy.

GRINGLAS: It's a tradition that started back in the '60s by a California senator with a major sweet tooth. Toomey is the latest in a long line of senators in charge of the candy desk. And this week, his office has been pulling out all the stops to keep it stocked.

KELLY: The responsibility of holding the candy desk is one that Senator Toomey doesn't take lightly.

GRINGLAS: Capitol Hill reporter Laura Olson has been keeping a close watch on the candy desk today.

LAURA OLSON: They were refilling it this morning. There are bags of candy coming in. The Senate pages load it into the desk on the floor.

GRINGLAS: She writes for the Morning Call in Allentown, Pa., and her story first brought this important work to our attention.

OLSON: I did spot also a couple of senators already rifling through the desk drawer before they got started today.

GRINGLAS: And, she notes, this isn't the first impeachment where a Pennsylvanian, the home of Hershey's, has held the keys to the candy drawer.

RICK SANTORUM: I'm York Peppermint Patty guy. That's always been my favorite.

GRINGLAS: That's former senator Republican Rick Santorum. He ran the candy drawer during President Clinton's impeachment.

SANTORUM: It's actually a very important part of keeping senators awake during these long hours of testimony. Having a little energy boost as you're sitting there at the desk is sometimes a good thing.

GRINGLAS: At one point, Santorum says that President Clinton's legal team complained that they weren't getting access to a steady flow of candy.

SANTORUM: And I said, touche, and so we then made sure that the Clinton legal team also was well-supplied with candy in their little office.

GRINGLAS: Santorum says impeachment is a serious time but also a human one. And so in the interest of full disclosure, we should say that we, too, at NPR have a candy drawer.

GISELE GRAYSON, BYLINE: I'm stocked. I've got a whole bag of extra gummy candy - your gummy bears, your Twizzlers, your Swedish Fish. They're my personal favorite.

GRINGLAS: Our operation is led by science editor Gisele Grayson, and she says she is ready for the long days ahead.

GRAYSON: I know it's a tough day. If the customers start coming before noon, it's going to be a rough couple of weeks. I'm prepared.

GRINGLAS: Journalists, Republicans, Democrats - everyone with a different role as the impeachment trial unfolds - but they all rely on a sugar boost to get through the day.

Sam Gringlas, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.