By Jordy Yager - 12/15/09 12:42 AM EST
the first time that he can remember, Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) and
his family are cutting back on their holiday shopping this Christmas
season. They haven’t figured out how yet, but they plan to limit the
number of gifts they give one another, perhaps by drawing names.
wife said we’re cutting back for the first time, and I’m on board with
that,” he said while riding a Senate subway car back to his office from
the Capitol. “I think it’ll be fine [with family members].”
other lawmakers are spending just as much as always and encouraging
people to do the same, saying that consumer confidence will help lift
the country out of the slump.
Whatever their approach,
members of Congress have gotten sucked into the annual holiday shopping
craze — what to give, what to ask for and, in an unusually busy
legislative month, when to get it all done.
Like Sessions, Rep. Donna Edwards (D-Md.) and her family are taking a different approach to Christmas gift-giving this season.
year, instead of getting each other gifts, we’re just going to take the
same money and give it to our favorite charity,” she said.
was Edwards’s youngest sister’s idea, but she said the whole family
loved it when she brought it up over Thanksgiving. Edwards is planning
to give her money to the Family Crisis Center, an organization in
Prince George’s County, Md., for victims of domestic violence. Edwards
has also taken on a monumental Christmas task: She has invited her
entire staff from both her district and D.C. offices for a home-cooked
holiday dinner on Dec. 16.
Some members, like Rep. Steven
LaTourette (R-Ohio), aren’t doing anything different this holiday
season (one of his favorite gifts to give, he said, is a Best Buy gift
card). A few lawmakers, like Rep. Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), are even
cheerleading the general public to help boost the economy through
robust Christmas shopping.
“I hope people don’t hold back and
that they spend what they can — obviously, not more than they can
afford — because I think this is all a confidence measure,” Engel said.
“When people have confidence in the economy, it becomes a
Engel noted that people in his
Bronx and Westchester County district seem to be reining in their
holiday spending so far — and one way he’s been able to tell is through
this season’s push for campaign contributions.
“I think this year a lot of people are holding back, and we can see it when we make phone calls for our campaigns,” he said.
Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) said when he traveled back to his Brooklyn
district over the Thanksgiving recess, he, too, got the strong sense
that it was going to be a penny-pinching holiday.
are very nervous,” he said. “The main thing people are talking about is
jobs, and people who are working are very nervous about the fact of
being laid off, so they’re not spending. But I hope they’ll begin to
have confidence and get things flowing and get the money circulating.”
Engel and Towns have their own shopping to do. Though they both
admitted that they’re not big holiday shoppers, when they do shop, they
like to go into the stores rather than buy presents online.
find it very therapeutic to go in there and touch a lot of things and
figure out what my wife would like,” Towns said. “And online, you can’t
get that same kind of feeling.”
But for some members, time is
the issue at hand. So they develop shopping strategies. Like Rep. Kevin
Brady (R-Texas), who, on any day except Black Friday, heads to a
shopping center near his home in east Texas and gets everything he
needs in a matter of hours.
“I go in and I get all my gifts
for the whole Christmas in three hours,” he said, adding that he
shouldn’t get too much credit because he does only about 10 percent of
the family’s gift shopping. “My wife carries almost the total burden,
and then I follow up.”
Family gift buying is almost always a
necessity, but many members don’t forget about the people they often
see more than their real flesh and blood: their staff.
Not to be
forgotten, many lawmakers have their own wish lists. Brady said he
already received his Christmas present this year — a series of exercise
weights — but he joked that he can always use more iTunes gift cards.
Engel, on the other hand, said he’s hoping to defer his Christmas gift
to next year.
“Another term in office is what I always ask
for,” he said. “We’re going around for the 12th time next time, so make
it an even dozen.”