What is the Senate Candy Desk?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Senate Candy Desk is a special desk on the Republican side of the aisle in the United States Senate which is kept stocked with various candies. The Senator who sits at the Candy Desk is responsible for ensuring that it is well supplied with sweets, and by tradition, the candy must originate from the Senator's home state. This desk is one of the few exceptions to the seniority rule of desk seating in the Senate, as it is generally offered to a candy-loving Senator, who may in fact forfeit a seat further up in the chamber for the privilege of maintaining the Senate Candy Desk.

Candy desk at the U.S. Senate.
Candy desk at the U.S. Senate.

The tradition of the Senate Candy Desk started some time in the 1960s, although there is some dispute about whether it started with Arizona Senator Paul Fannin, or California Senator George Murphy. In any case, the desk in the back row of the Republican side of the Senate nearest to the side door came to be known as the place to stop for a quick sweet fix, and the desk became an enduring Senate tradition.

Location of the Candy Desk.
Location of the Candy Desk.

At the start of each new Senate session, the desks in the Senate chamber are typically doled out by seniority, with high-ranking Senators sitting close to the front of the chamber, while junior Senators sit in the back. Republicans sit on the right side of the chamber, while Democrats sit on the left side of the chamber, across an aisle. Certain desks in the Senate are reserved for particular Senators; for example, Daniel Webster's former desk goes to the senior Senator from New Hampshire. Typically, agreements about who will take custody of the Candy Desk are made prior to the start of the new session.

Senate side of the U.S. Capitol building.
Senate side of the U.S. Capitol building.

Some Senators have complained about the expense of keeping up the Senate Candy Desk, as stressful Senate sessions can put quite a strain on the contents of the Candy Desk. As a result, some Senators compensate the desk's owner with a few dollars now and then. Candy manufacturers have also realized that stocking the desk could be a great public relations opportunity; Hershey famously supplied 400 pounds (181 kilograms) of candy a year to the Senate Candy Desk when it was in the custody of Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.

When the Senate Candy Desk changes hands, it often makes headlines as an interesting tidbit from the hallowed traditions of the United States Senate. In 2007, a candy controversy erupted when a Wyoming Senator took over; Wyoming is not a state known for its candy manufacturing, and there was concern that Senator Craig Thomas would be unable to keep the desk fully stocked with candy exports from his native state. Fortunately, several artisan candy producers from around Wyoming stepped in to fill the desk with Wyoming specialties.

U.S. Senate chamber including the Senators of the 108th Congress.
U.S. Senate chamber including the Senators of the 108th Congress.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


I have always kept a candy desk in any rest home I work in. I keep diabetic candy as well and my patients are very welcome to help themselves, as well as the staff!


I knew I would scroll down and see some leap-before-you-look person talking about gluttonous Republicans. The Democrats have a candy desk too. And both parties spend ridiculously.


I think the candy desk is a very sweet feature of the senate. (Yes the pun was intended.)

Think about it. You've been in a meeting all day, and you barely know what's going on anymore. Everyone's just yelling at each other and smearing each other at this point, and you can't wait for it to be over.

In a recess period, you decide it's time to go get a snack. As you go to leave the room, you're handed a delicious looking candy. You look up at the face of the man who handed it to you. He's one of the people who is standing against your side.

"You looked like you could use something sweet to brighten up your day. I don't mean to fight with you guys, I'm just trying to help out how I see fit."

You smile and shake his hand. He's not a bad person, he just doesn't know what he's talking about, and now your day is better because you have this sweet treat when you were going to settle for some fiber bar.

That's what the candy seat is all about: relieving the stress of a long day. I think that it's one of the little miracles of life that shouldn't be taken for granted.

(I plan on being that guy in the office with a bowl of candy with a sign that tells people to help themselves.)


Go figure that condoning gluttony is found on the Republican side.


So, do they share with the Democrats?


Candy Desk? No wonder Congress makes such ridiculous decisions--brain fog!


Well, at least we know that some republicans can be sweet people!


I hope it doesn't promote obesity or make the blood sugars of any with diabetes go up. --Donald W. Bales

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