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Congress takes holiday decorating seriously. This year it caused an outcry

Justin Papp, CQ-Roll Call on

Published in Political News

Since its inception in 2019, the holiday decorating contest in the Longworth House Office Building has been plagued by “skullduggery” and “holiday espionage,” to borrow phrases from two of its founders.

From stolen nutcrackers to deflated snowmen, members of Congress have been known to get competitive. But rarely has the annual December tradition descended into actual controversy.

This year, however, several Democratic lawmakers and staffers are calling out the overtly political decorations of Rep. Eli Crane, an Arizona Republican who hung signs on his doors that say “Have Documents Ready” and “Border Patrol Elves Only.”

“The competition is really supposed to reflect the spirit of the season, be upbeat and fun, let people share their holiday traditions and different faith traditions,” said North Carolina Democratic Rep. Deborah K. Ross, who has participated since she came to office in 2021. “So this is not in keeping with the spirit of the season.”

Crane has fired back, brushing off the criticism. “I wish Democrats were as triggered about all the families whose lives have been destroyed by the consequences of an open-border as they are about Christmas decorations,” he said in an emailed statement.

His display features smiling, sparkly elves perched on a brick wall, under other signs that read “Port of Entry” and “Welcome to Arizona.”

 

Colorado Democratic Rep. Brittany Pettersen called the border theme “unfortunate,” but said the competition is still “overwhelmingly” friendly.

“Like a lot of things in Congress, the large majority of us are going to be normal, reasonable people,” she said.

Petterson came to the House this year after the retirement of Ed Perlmutter, who helped start the decorating wars along with fellow Colorado Democratic Rep. Jason Crow and Wisconsin Republican Rep. Mike Gallagher.

At the center is the second floor of the Longworth Building, where inflatables loom outside many doors when December rolls around. The contest is informal and has no official rules or system of judging, according to Gallagher, who has taken on a de facto leadership role, with Perlmutter retired and Crow’s office now located on the third floor. But even in highly partisan times, members have largely avoided using their decorations to send political messages, at least as Gallagher recalls.

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