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Romance, Security Connect on Valentine’s Day

Don’t plan on sending that special Capitol Hill staffer a bouquet of roses for Valentine’s Day — it probably won’t get there.

Unless you do it right, that is.

Congressional security officials are instituting some special guidelines for Valentine’s Day, and with a little advance planning you can still send flowers to your sweetheart.

Both the Senate and House Sergeant-at-Arms offices plan to make some allowances for the holiday, although procedures are pretty much the same as any other day at the Capitol.

Commercial couriers and vendors aren’t allowed to make deliveries directly to the Capitol or Senate and House office buildings. Instead, nationwide carriers such as FedEx, UPS and DHL must deliver all material addressed to Congressional buildings to an off-site package testing facility — but packages delivered there won’t be available until about 72 hours later. (The 2001 anthrax scare led to all mail being screened away from Capitol Hill.)

In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to Members and staff last week, Chief Administrative Officer Jay Eagen and House Sergeant-at-Arms Bill Livingood said House Postal Operations “will make every attempt to secure the perishable items in refrigeration units until released from quarantine.”

But even if flowers and other gifts are able to be delivered, those sent to arrive on Valentine’s Day won’t get there until at least Feb. 17, which, well, goes against the point of the holiday. (And, gentleman, that will probably leave your lovely lady a tad angry at you.)

So instead, security officials are advising delivery personnel to meet Congressional staffers (with valid identification, of course) in an outside public area to deliver the gifts.

Staffers then must personally bring the flowers into the building, and no sealed envelopes or containers will be allowed through security. Only cut flowers that are set in water or arranged in an unsealed box or carton will be permitted.

“Given the uniqueness of the day, this procedure applies only to Valentine’s Day, in the spirit of being practical while maintaining security,” a Senate Sergeant-at-Arms memo reads.

And to all those shy lovebirds who want to send a package to their secret crushes without signing their names: Don’t bother.

“Under no circumstances should you accept delivery of any type of flower arrangement or other gift if you do not know the sender,” Eagen and Livingood wrote. (And that goes for the Senate, too.)

Don’t want to deal with all the security? Need to send something to that crush who works in the office across the hall?

Then just head down to one of the Congressional gift shops for some delicious Valentine treats.

The Senate Gift Shop will offer boxes of cookies from Eleni’s, a high-end New York baker whose products have been featured in the Neiman Marcus and Dean & Deluca catalogues.

Prices range from $5 for a heart-shaped cookie to $40 for boxes of treats, including frog-shaped cookies with romantic sayings on them, a spin on Prince Charming.

“We actually had somebody provide us those cookies during the holidays, and we liked them so much, we decided to contact the company,” said Ernie LePire, director of the Senate Gift Shop.

The shop also will sell cards and chocolates for those last-minute gifts.

“It’s chocolate we sell year-round, but a lot of people buy it as a present for Valentine’s Day,” LePire said.

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