But with the Senate health legislation, the term is particularly apt, as the majority leader, Harry Reid, aims to have a vote by Christmas Eve on a bill festooned with decorations.
They include these:
The “Louisiana Purchase,” as it is being called, aprovision for Senator Mary L. Landrieu, Democrat of Louisiana, who obtained an extra $300 million in Medicaidfunds for her state.
The Hawaii exemption, a measure that allows the state to keep its own health care system.
A break on the excise tax on so-called Cadillac health insurance plans for people in the 17 states where premiums are the highest. (The measure was initially intended to apply to the 10 states with the highest premiums, a Senate aide said, but some other senators wanted in and the number was bumped to 17.)
An increase in federal money to cover a Medicaid expansion in Nebraska, home to Senator Ben Nelson, a Democrat. Massachusetts and Vermont also won more money to expand Medicaid, but at much lower levels.
While Mr. Nelson held up the bill for an anti-abortionprovision, he won various other items for his state, including an exemption from the insurance tax for Mutual of Omaha. But the abortion language to which he agreed infuriated some abortion opponents when it was made public on Saturday, threatening the entire bill all over again.
Supporters of the bill say these sugar plums are a small price to pay for the votes to pass landmark legislation that will result in most Americans having health insurance, many with subsidies, and will end some of the insurance industry’s most discriminatory practices.
But these ornaments are mere baubles compared with some of the neon measures that some lawmakers and lobbyists have fought to keep out of the bill.
Most prominent was the demand by Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, independent of Connecticut, that leaders drop two provisions that the insurance industry and big business had been lobbying vociferously against.
One, of course, was a government-run insurance plan, or public option, which would have competed with private insurance companies. The other was an expansion of Medicare to include some people ages 55 to 64, a change hospitals and doctors fought because it would have meant taking care of more patients at lower Medicare rates.
Insurers also beat back an attempt to strip the industry of a partial antitrust exemption that it has long enjoyed.
To achieve these goals, the lobbying campaign has been lavish, even by Capitol Hill’s inflated standards.
Spending totals for the year will not be known until mid-January. But in the first nine months, health care lobbyists spent at least $396 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, which tracks the influence of money on elections and policy.
Because the lobbying intensified in the fourth quarter as both the House and Senate prepared their final bills, the year-end total is likely to shatter the previous record for money spent on a single issue in a single year.
Perhaps not surprisingly, that record was set just last year, when health care lobbyists spent $486 million in anticipation of the legislative action this year.
“If spending this quarter remains on pace with the first three quarters — just on pace — lobbying in the health care sector will obliterate the high-water mark that it set last year,” said Dave Levinthal, a spokesman for the center.
But even those figures do not give the full picture of the cash funneled into lobbying on health care in 2009.