Sixty senators were exchanging gifts and good cheer – we hope – at a Secret Santa party just off the Senate floor tonight. The bipartisan fete was hosted by Sens. Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), and was the first ever organized gift exchange in the sometimes uptight upper chamber.
Franken came up with the Secret Santa idea, hoping it might bring a bit of warming to frosty partisan relations. Senators drew names from a Santa hat – names from the opposite party, of course – and there was a strict $10 limit on gifts.
Franken spokeswoman Alexandra Fetissoff wouldn't reveal whom the senator picked or what he bought as a gift. This information was top secret until the party was officially over, she said. Other members could be seen bringing in cookies and books.
Fetissoff did say the senator got the idea from his childhood Secret Santa experiences. He once drew the name of the boy who used to intimidate him in the schoolyard, she said.
"They became friends," she said.
If only it were that easy. Even as the senators hobnobbed, a clash over the White House’s pick to be the ambassador to El Salvador roiled on the floor next door. Republicans blocked the nomination. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) accused them of "political discrimination."
Things were back to normal.