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