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


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


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.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.
Ailsa Chang is an award-winning journalist who hosts All Things Considered along with Ari Shapiro, Audie Cornish, and Mary Louise Kelly. She landed in public radio after practicing law for a few years.