D.C. Notebook: Pioneer Day royalty and a little piece of home in the nation's capital
Politicians normally swarm Pioneer Day with all of its parades and fireworks and persuadable voters, er, we mean happy families.
And even though it fell in the middle of the week, Utah's federal lawmakers were scheming to slip out of Washington and wave to the crowds from a parade float back home. Then the Senate decided to vote on student loans and the House approved a bill funding the military.
They were stuck in D.C. So, just how did Utah's delegation celebrate the state's unique holiday?
For starters, they ate a whole lot of CafÃ© Rio fare.
The Mexican food chain, created in St. George, has a few franchises surrounding Washington and has become the go-to spot for Utahns craving a little piece of home.
Rep. Rob Bishop sent a staffer to bring back food for the office, though in an attempt to be healthy, they grudgingly passed on the pork barbacoa. Rep. Jason Chaffetz took an Instagram photo of his CafÃ© Rio bag. And Sen. Orrin Hatch's office also ordered in smothered burritos.
Royalty • Hatch's celebration didn't just include a lunch, it included a full fledged campaign to name the Pioneer king and queen of his office, an annual battle between his Senate office and his Finance Committee staff.
After some intense bribery involving ice cream and cookies, the staff "crowned His Royal Highness Matthew Richardson (a legislative correspondent) and Her Royal Majesty Hayden Rhudy (senior health policy adviser)," according to Hatch spokesman Matthew Harakal.
Sharing the celebration • Each Thursday one Republican senator hosts a meal for the rest of the caucus and it was Sen. Mike Lee's turn last week. He used a Pioneer Day picnic theme serving pork sliders and ribs, fries with fry sauce and, of course, root beer floats, with the help of Harward Farms, The Smoking Apple and Hires.
13,000 votes • The Senate paused for a moment Wednesday to give Hatch a standing ovation. He had just cast his 13,000th vote as a senator, a mark that took him 37 years to reach.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid called it "a tremendous accomplishment."
"It speaks to his dedication to the state of Utah, his constituents, the Senate and our country," said the Democratic leader, who noted "although Orrin and I occasionally disagree on substantive issues, I have great respect for him."
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell then said Hatch "will not be known for the quantity of his votes but for the quality of his work."
Hatch wanted to make sure he wasn't being put out to pasture and said: "I am not really one to dwell on the past. I have a lot more work here to do and a lot more votes to cast before I am done."
He should easily pass 15,000 votes before his seventh and final term comes to a close in January 2019.
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