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If the aging red Camaro was parked in front of Rep. Bobby Rush’s (D-Ill.) house instead of the garage of his Capitol Hill office, the police probably would have towed it away long ago. [IMGCAP(1)]

Though it’s somehow managed to avoid impoundment or the junkyard, the once-proud muscle car belonging to the Illinois Democrat now sits in the Rayburn parking garage, a sad sight with its two flat tires, long-expired 2000 inspection sticker and a thick coat of dust.

The beat-up car has languished so long that it’s become the subject of plenty of jokes among House staffers and even other Members who park (presumably operational, cleaner cars) nearby in the garage. “Rep. Rush clearly isn’t in a rush to get anywhere in that thing,” one House staffer observed.

And, who knows how recently, puckish vandals have etched graffiti into the dust shrouding the car. “Help me,” “I’m lost,” “eat my dust” and “sell me” now decorate the car, accompanied by a drawing of a frowning face.

Even Rush’s own staff has tried to convince him to sell it.

But it’s clear that Rush has tender feelings about the car, which he and his wife, Carolyn, bought new back in 1988, enjoying that special connection that exists only between a man and his wheels. The lawmaker recalled to HOH what the car was like in its glory days, how he so enjoyed opening up the T-top and letting the sun shine in on a nice day’s drive, how its cherry-red finish shone.

“Man, just talking about it makes me want to take off this suit and tie, and go out there with a bucket and clean it up,” he said wistfully.

Sheepishly, Rush admitted he can’t remember the last time the car ran. The problem, he said, is that if he left the car alone for a long stretch — like an August recess — the battery would die. And then the car would just sit. And sit. Mostly Rush takes cabs from his Dupont Circle apartment or hitches rides with staffers to get around town. He travels home almost every weekend — via airplane — so he doesn’t really need a car in Washington, D.C., he said.

But he admitted being shamed by HOH into doing something to restore the Camaro to its rightful state of magnificence. “I’m gonna get it back on the road,” he vowed.

Looks Can Deceive. And here we thought that the office of the House Chief Administrative Officer — the people who run all the mundane, dull details of the chamber’s day-to-day operations — might be pretty … well, mundane and dull. But it turns out there’s some wackiness afoot.

The more than 700 staffers in the CAO’s employ got a quirky missive this week from Mel Gipprich, aide to House CAO Dan Beard.

The substance of the e-mail was unremarkable: Gipprich wanted to inform staffers of how to contact her or Beard. But the delivery made some recipients wonder just what was going on over there. Gipprich refers to Beard as “the Wonderful Wizard of Oz” and notes that “flying monkeys are here only on occasion.” Hmmm.

Gipprich, who writes humorous poetry in her spare time, told HOH that she was just trying to lighten up the office mood a bit. “Now I’ve had people ask if I’m Glinda the Good Witch or the Wicked Witch,” she said.

So Much for Outrageous. If Sen. Trent Lott hadn’t been a Senator, the Mississippi Republican might have had a career in sales. Trying to gather reporters to a GOP press conference following the Senate’s regular Tuesday policy lunches, Lott dangled this pitch: “Hey y’all,” he announced. “We’re fixin’ to say something outrageous.” A few observers on hand noticed how quickly reporters duly swarmed the microphones, awaiting the alleged outrageousness.

Not too surprisingly, however, the Republicans didn’t make good on Lott’s promise, as the GOP Senators repeated talking points about Democrats’ stance on the Iraq War funding.

Uh, can we get a refund on that, Senator?

More Fun Than Paying Taxes. For those of you planning to toss back a margarita (or four) in honor of Cinco de Mayo on Saturday, there’s good news. The House on Tuesday passed a resolution that practically imposes a week’s worth of partying, Mexican-independence style.

The resolution sponsored by Rep. Joe Baca (D-Calif.) includes this line: “Whereas many people celebrate during the entire week in which Cinco de Mayo falls.” And later, the resolution calls on the president to issue an order “calling upon the people of the United States to observe Cinco de Mayo with appropriate ceremonies and activities.”

See, really, it’s your civic duty.

Jennifer Yachnin contributed to this report.

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