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Comity is a rare commodity in a divided Congress, but Todd Young is hoping the smorgasbord of sweets he’ll sneak into the Senate candy desk will help support friendships and even bipartisan deals.
The Indiana Republican, who recently took over the duties of maintaining the Senate’s candy stash, said he’ll reveal on Tuesday a revamped drawer full of Hoosier specialties, from his state’s traditional chocolate offerings for purists, to sour candies carrying “prepare to pucker” warnings for more adventurous lawmakers.
“We’re not going to sugarcoat some of the challenges that have emerged in our politics,” Young said. “But perhaps we can sweeten the pot.”
Young inherited the job of maintaining the chamber’s candy drawer when former Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) retired at the end of the last Congress.
The Senate’s sweet spot got its start in 1968 when then-Sen. George Murphy (R-Calif.) stocked his desk in the back row of the GOP side of the Senate chamber with a candy supply he shared with colleagues. The location near the Senate’s elevator entrance was a high-traffic location and other senators who inherited Murphy’s desk also filled the drawer with their favorites.
The desk recently gained more popularity when lawmakers couldn’t easily leave the floor during late-night budget vote-a-ramas and the impeachment trials of former President Donald Trump.
During those events Toomey kept the drawer stocked with candy from Pennsylvania chocolate maker Hershey Co., one of the nation’s biggest in a $13 billion industry. Hershey makes Kisses, Reese’s, and KitKat bars.
Young said he’s using the assignment to similarly highlight his own state’s candy industry. Candy makers are linked to $1.4 billion of Indiana’s economic output.
The candy industry has actual business on Capitol Hill. The National Confectioners Association disclosed spending $150,000 on federal lobbying during the first three months of this year, according to a recent filing.
The group’s website says 18 of its member companies, including the Red Vines-producing American Licorice Company and the South Bend Chocolate Company, hail from Indiana and support more than 5,000 direct jobs and more than 16,000 related jobs.
Pennsylvania, for comparison, has more than 14,600 people directly employed by candy makers including Hershey with more than 60,000 related jobs, according to the National Confectioners Association.
What’s in the Drawer
The Indiana sugar shock includes candy from almost 10 different companies. Choices for the Senate’s chocolate lovers include DeBrand Fine Chocolates’ Fort Wayne Bars made of solid chocolate and Mr. Fudge’s Buckeyes, Midwest favorites made with both chocolate and peanut butter. He’s also offering mini chocolate bars, chocolate covered jelly beans, caramels, gummies, and red hots from other state candy makers.
Senators also can prepare for a tart experience as Young piles in Sour Punch Straws, an Indiana-made candy that’s one of the most popular treats in states like California and Texas.
If that’s not enough, Young is also offering senators a taste of Toxic Waste, a line of “hazardously sour candy” produced by Indiana-based Candy Dynamics. The company’s offerings include Slime Licker Sour Rolling Liquid Candy and Sour Smog Balls. Toxic Waste Nuclear Fusion is packaged in mini drums with a “product could melt” warning.
Young said senators reflect different regional candy tastes and he’s ready with something for everyone.
Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), for example, is “definitely a traditionalist so he will likely be popping some caramels or some chocolates in his mouth.” Young said there’s offerings for Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), who he described as a “health nut,” including gummi bears from the Albanese Confectionery Group, which are free of fat and gluten.
“I think Kyrsten will probably gravitate towards the sort of candies I would, which would be a fat-free option,” Young said.
With assistance from Kate Ackley
To contact the reporter on this story: Nancy Ognanovich in Washington at firstname.lastname@example.org