How a Santa Impersonator Saved Christmas for Congress

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, who was a deciding vote on a rule for Congress's spending bill, is also a reindeer farmer.

For members of Congress eager for their winter break, it was a real D.C. Christmas miracle.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives was set to vote on a rule that would affect whether an enormous spending bill, colloquially known as the "CRomnibus," would pass in time to prevent a government shutdown.

And it all came down to a Santa Claus impersonator.

Rep. Kerry Bentivolio, an outgoing House member from Michigan, is a reindeer farmer in his spare time. And as a Republican, he was the final deciding vote on the rule, which he originally voted against.

With no time left and Democrats on the floor shouting for the vote to be called, Bentivolio was spotted approaching the front of the chamber. Within moments, the vote tally changed in favor of passage. As Bentivolio slowly ambled back up an aisle to the rear of the House chamber, he seemed to say nothing to members as he passed them.

The rule passed, 214-212.

As Bloomberg Politics' Dave Weigel noted:

If the rule hadn't passed, it would have derailed the spending bill and made a possible government shutdown—or the need for members to work through Christmas—all that more likely.

"If we don't get finished today, we're going to be here until Christmas," House Speaker John Boehner told reporters Thursday morning, before the vote. "You all know how this process works."

And nearly single-handedly, Bentivolio won the War on Congress's Christmas Break. The Santa Claus role is one that Bentivolio doesn't take lightly, either.

In 2012, Betsy Woodruff profiled Bentivolio for the National Review, and came out with this amazing detail about how seriously Bentivolio takes his job:

He once testified under oath that he thinks of himself as impersonating Kerry Bentivolio for eleven months, rather than Kris Kringle for just one — testimony that made headlines recently when reporters learned of it. "That's what you have to do, you get in character!" he tells me. "I think I'm Santa when I'm Santa."

One hitch in this perfect Christmas narrative: Republican Rep. Stutzman of Indiana also switched his vote, although he voted before Bentivolio. It is unclear whether Stutzman also dabbles in holiday-character impersonation.

Billy House contributed to this article