Stuck in the chamber for hours on end without cellphones or laptops, senators have turned to fidget spinners, books, yoga techniques and an array of snacks to stay alert during the impeachment trial of President Trump.
“Sunflower seeds keep you alert and allow me to listen,” said Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., on what helps him pass the time.
Sen. Rand Paul was spotted by an ABC News reporter doing a crossword puzzle in the chamber. At another point, he was folding paper to make an airplane.
Both the House impeachment managers and Trump’s defense team have 24 hours over three days apiece to make their arguments to the 100 senators who took an oath to be impartial jurors. Many of the senators are actively engaged by taking notes, watching the video clips in the presentations and following along with the printed exhibits.
But the time sitting in uncomfortable chairs has been taking a toll on bleary-eyed senators, some of whom have been caught sleeping in their seats, including Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho. Sen. Bernie Sanders, away from the campaign trail, slumped in his chair Thursday evening, took off his glasses to rub his eyes and gave himself a prolonged temple massage.
Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., who showed up without socks at the start of the trial, returned with goodies for his colleagues later in the week. He passed out fidget spinners and stress balls to help them stay occupied.
Burr sat spinning the blue toy in his seat Thursday evening. Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., brought a pack of chewing tobacco to the floor but was asked to put it away.
The temperature in the Senate chamber was quite cool Thursday evening, which probably helped keep restless senators more alert. Several senators had to resort to cuddling up with blankets or shawls to keep comfortable, including Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.
Tennessee GOP Sen. Marsha Blackburn, who got into a tussle with Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman this week, said she was multi-tasking on the Senate floor by reading a book: “Resistance (At All Costs): How Trump Haters Are Breaking America,” by Wall Street Journal editorial board member Kimberley Strassel.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, wrapped in a shawl, compared sitting in the uncomfortable chairs in the chamber to the long plane rides she makes weekly when she travels back home to Alaska.
“I sit on an airplane for 10 to 12 hours usually twice a week,” Murkowski said. “I’m used to kind of sitting in small confined spaces. But these chairs are not comfortable.”
She’s resorting to some of her plane exercises. “I got a little bit of sciatica going on. I’m doing all my airplane yoga sitting in the chair there, trying to stretch, trying to move without moving. It’s hard.”
Some senators have just left the chamber for long stretches of time and missed segments of the trial. At different points, roughly 20 of the 100 senators were not in their seats.
The absences have galled some pro-impeachment lawmakers, including Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib, who said the no-show senators should quit.
When all else fails, milk and snacks await the exhausted pols.
Both the GOP and Democratic cloakrooms are well stocked with candy and fruit to keep the senators refreshed before dinner, while senators take turns on takeout meals for their dinner breaks, which has included Roti for Democrats and Carmine’s Italian food for the GOP.
Senators have taken delight in bringing milk on the Senate floor, oddly the only other drink that’s permitted under a 1966 precedent except for glasses of iced water. Sen.Tom Cotton, R-Ark., paired his inaugural glass of milk with a Hershey’s chocolate and Twitter went abuzz.
Cotton said the milk would have been better as a White Russian, but quipped Rep. Adam Schiff would have accused him of colluding with Russia.
"I guess I could’ve added vodka & had a White Russian (minus the Kahlua)," Cotton tweeted. "But @RepAdamSchiff probably would’ve accused me of collusion."
In bitterly partisan times, the quest for distractions and snacks has provided one avenue for camaraderie.
GOP Sen. Pat Toomey's office provided an update to the press on Friday that he has restocked his "candy desk" after reinforcements from Hershey's, inviting any interested parties to check out the "newest stock of sweets."