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Threat of fiscal cliff won't make Scrooge out of Chaffetz

Published December 17, 2012 1:48 pm

Politics • Utah Republican says he can tough out holiday shifts without staff.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz refuses to play Scrooge with his staff and as a result may have a fairly lonely post-Christmas week.

Congressional leaders are telling lawmakers their holiday break may be cut down to just one day — Dec. 25 — if negotiations over the fiscal cliff keep plodding along at such a slow pace.

"It's not very family friendly, but it is important," said Chaffetz, R-Utah. "I've booked every flight you can possibly imagine, with every set of combinations."

Those flights are all refundable and the one he doesn't want to take is one he expects he'll use, the morning of Dec. 26. But Chaffetz told his congressional staff to take their holiday vacations as planned.

"They don't need to be here for me to decide how to vote on the fiscal cliff," he said. "I told them to go forth and be merry. No need to ruin their holiday time."

Secret Santa in the Senate • If you had to buy Sen. Patrick Leahy a gift and you had a $10 limit, what would you buy?

Sen. Mike Lee's answer: A Batman Snuggie.

Lee and his Utah colleague, Sen. Orrin Hatch, were two of the 60 senators who participated in the second-annual Senate Secret Santa exchange, which took place earlier this week. Twenty Republicans joined 40 Democrats and gave as many cross-party gifts as possible.

Lee pulled the name of Leahy, the Judiciary chairman, while Hatch had to find a cheap gift for Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va.

So how did Lee come up with his kitschy idea? He combined two things commonly known about Leahy: He's a Batman fanatic who has cameos in the recent movies, and he's from Vermont where it is darn cold.

Hatch stuck to a Utah theme, giving Rockefeller a coffee-table book of Valoy Eaton's western landscapes.

Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., drew Lee's name. He decided to make a play off of Lee's not-so-secret desire to be a pirate on the high seas.

In speeches, Lee often jokingly refers to the antiquated congressional power of issuing a "letter of marque and reprisal," which grants the bearer the right to act as a pirate in the name of the U.S. government. Lee says before he leaves the Senate, he wants such a letter, an eye patch and a ship.

Levin gave Lee the paperback of Jewish Pirates of the Caribbean: How a generation of swashbuckling Jews carved out an empire in the New World in their quest for treasure, religious freedom and revenge.

Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., bought Hatch a gift keying off the Utah Republican's love of music: the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir's "Christmas at the Brooklyn Tabernacle."

No plan B • Rep.-elect Chris Stewart appeared on his friend Glenn Beck's radio program to talk about his e-book fiction series (which Beck's company distributes), but the conservative host couldn't help but talk a little politics, saying: "I was trying to hire him when he feels he had a higher calling from God to try to fix the problem in Washington. I tried to tell him, 'I think that was alcohol, Chris. Somebody might have been drinking around you.'"

Beck later turned serious and pressed Stewart, a former U.S. Air Force pilot, on something that took him by surprise after winning his House election — how discombobulated the Republican Party has been over presidential candidate Mitt Romney's loss. "Normally in the military, for example, you have plan A and if plan A doesn't work, you go to plan B, and you go down the line. I'm not sure that the Republican Party has a plan B."

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Burr and Canham report from Washington, D.C. They can be reached at tburr@sltrib.com or mcanham@sltrib.com or via Twitter: @thomaswburr or @mattcanham.