It looks like the rest of the furniture in the US Senate, but a desk has a secret power that gives it the unique ability to unify a deeply divided chamber—it’s full of sugary treats.
The “candy desk”—filled with chocolates, sticky lollies and other goodies capable of sweetening even the most painstaking voting season—has been the guilty pleasure of legislators for more than half a century.
Located near a busy entrance on the Republican side, this saccharin store requires a storekeeper of sorts to make sure it’s always full.
During periods of intense negotiations, like the senators scrambling over spending and debt in recent weeks, this is a responsibility the country’s legislators take seriously.
“I can assure you that the candy desk is now, and will continue to be, well-stocked,” Pat Tommy of Pennsylvania told AFP.
You’ll have to take the Republican senator’s word for it, because photographs of the Mahogany Bureau, with its writing box, bookshelf, and ventilation grille, are extremely rare thanks to a Senate rule prohibiting photography.
Senators enjoy oratory – especially their own – and keep unconventional hours. A vote on even the most apparently simple issue can take an entire night.
The idea of a candy desk isn’t really meant to keep legislators well-nourished during these endless debates.
But with about a third of senators in their 70s and beyond, the esteemed body needs all the elixir it can find to keep members perky in the short hours.
During Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial in 2020, a key procedural priority was moving large boxes of candy to Tommy’s workstation through the corridors of power.
The senator has been the gatekeeper-in-chief of the Candy Desk since 2015, and it is clear that he values the trust bestowed upon him to oversee this most sacred duty of personal honor.
“But it’s also the natural order of things that the Pennsylvania senator will have a candy desk, because we lead America and the world in candy-making,” he enthuses.
Toomey makes a strong case: Some 200 candy makers, including the world-famous Hershey’s, operate in the Keystone State, an area employing about 10,000 workers.
Senators are generally not allowed to accept gifts, but there are some exceptions, such as for low-value products that are shipped from their home states to be handed out free of charge. The tradition began in 1968, when a desk was allotted to California Republican George Murphy, a skilled actor and a dancer for a crowd-pleasing gesture.
Known for his sweet tooth, he used to invite coworkers to share the gifts he kept to receive during the long hours of giving speeches.
The ritual was kept alive by later patrons, including Republican presidential candidates John McCain of Arizona and Rick Santorum, who sat there during Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial.
“Keeping the Senators Awake”
“It’s actually a very important part of keeping senators awake during these long hours of testimony,” Santorum, another Pennsylvanian, told public radio station NPR last year.
Santorum again gained allies with a lesser-known controversy surrounding Clinton’s 1999 acquittal for lying under oath during the Monica Lewinsky scandal—when the 42nd president’s legal team complained that she was charged for candy. They are being denied their rightful access.
This may not be the system’s most consequential point to the wider public, but Santorum was acutely aware of the injustice, and made it a point to ensure confectionary equity even in the most hostile of scenarios.
To argue that the candy desk is some totem of the bipartisan community might sugar-coat the issue though.
In Washington, even over-indulging on candy can be a one-party political issue, and Democrats have thrown down the gauntlet with their own operation to rival Tommy’s.
“My desk is now the candy desk. Yes, he’s on the Republican side. I’m on the Democratic side,” claims Corey Booker, who generously gave M&Ms a brightly colored morsel of America’s Made in his home state of New Jersey . , during the impeachment trial of Donald Trump.
Booker, however, says that he is ready to give some of his presents to Tommy’s trove of delights.
“Small acts of kindness make the world go round,” he says with a grin.
(Except for the title, this story has not been edited by NB staff and is published from a syndicated feed.)