Sen. Claus, I-North Pole

Senators took a brief break this week from fiscal cliff wrangling for a bit of bipartisan holiday cheer.

Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., teamed up with Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., for the second year in a row to organize a Secret Santa gift exchange among colleagues.

“We probably should do more of these things where we don’t have to be Republicans and Democrats,” Johanns told the World-Herald. “We can just be each other.”

Senators dropped off and picked up gifts at their holiday party Monday night, although delayed flights dampened the affair and meant some senators didn’t get their presents until Tuesday.

Johanns gave a bottle of Nebraska wine to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., and received a T-shirt from his alma mater, St. Mary’s University in Minnesota, from Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.

Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, gave Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., some Jolly Time popcorn and Hazelnut Meltaways from Monastery Candy in Dubuque.

“So she can go watch a movie and have candy and popcorn,” Harkin said.

Harkin received some holiday reading from Sen. Kent Conrad — the Paul Krugman book “End this Recession Now!”.

As a joke, the North Dakota Democrat also threw in a few charts from the farm bill debate of 2008, when Harkin chaired the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, gave a book about George Washington’s letters during the Revolutionary War to Sen. Joe Liberman, I-Conn. From Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., Grassley received some maple syrup, a sparkling beverage and a card that read:

“To Chuck, a farmer extraordinaire, I hope you like this sampling of some of New Hampshire’s farm products. Merry Christmas.”

Participation was less than universal, however.

Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., skipped the exchange this year. He said it was oversight, not intentional.

“It’s ‘Bah humbug’ this year apparently,” Nelson said. “We just forgot.”

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