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Heard on the Hill: Of Mice and Congressmen

When Rep. Tom Cole moved to the Rayburn House Office Building this year, he knew he’d be getting some new neighbors.

[IMGCAP(1)]The Oklahoma Republican just didn’t know they would be the four-legged, furry type.

Cole’s office is infested with mice, an issue he raised on Thursday when acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers — the guy who oversees pest-control issues on Capitol Hill — testified before a House appropriations subcommittee.

“Moving from Cannon to Rayburn, I thought the rodent situation would get better, but it hasn’t,— Cole said. “So I’m just curious what we do.—

Ayers told Cole that he had no idea about the pest problem and pledged to take immediate action — although Cole noted the critters haven’t been too bothersome, at least to him.

“So far it’s been good. They’ve hung around the staff office. … They’ve preserved the inner sanctum pretty well,— Cole joked.

The mice could soon be on their way out, since Ayers kept his word and sent workers to Cole’s office immediately after the hearing to put down glue traps. Officials will continue “to monitor the situation,— AOC spokeswoman Eva Malecki told HOH.

“The good news is there’s five mice and nine of us, so for now, we’re enjoying the majority,— Cole spokeswoman Liz Eddy joked.

NoDoz for Harman? Suffice it to say that Rep. Jane Harman hasn’t had a relaxing week. So HOH wasn’t surprised when the California Democrat was spotted with her head nodding in sleepiness during a solemn ceremony in the Capitol on Thursday.

An HOH operative says Harman appeared to be fighting the urge to snooze during a Holocaust remembrance event in the Capitol Rotunda, where speakers included President Barack Obama and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. Our reliable spy says Harman was listening intently to the speakers and at one point looked so moved by their words, she appeared close to tears. But as the event wore on, her head began to bob slightly in that oh-so-familiar fashion.

Harman’s chief of staff, John Hess, denied that she napped during the event, noting that she is the daughter of a refugee from Nazi Germany. She was “deeply absorbed,— he said. “Any notion that she was sleeping through it is bulls—.—

Harman, though, has reason to be losing sleep: News reports this week say she was caught on a National Security Agency wiretap agreeing to help two Israeli officials in exchange for assistance winning the chairmanship of the House Intelligence Committee. On Tuesday, two days before the Holocaust event, Harman gave two high-profile news interviews defending herself, and later that evening she attended a theater event thrown by the Washington Shakespeare Theatre Company at Sidney Harman Hall, the venue named after her husband.

Harman wasn’t the only Washington official in need of a caffeine jolt — National Economic Council chief Larry Summers dozed off during a Wednesday meeting of administration types and credit card company execs.

We Resemble That. Sen. Jon Kyl wants Realtors to make less money. The Arizona Republican took to the Senate floor on Thursday to speak in favor of an amendment that would limit awards to Realtors.

The only problem is that Kyl didn’t mean Realtor, as in the professional who helps you buy and sell houses — rather, he meant “relator,— as in one who relates, or another name for a whistle-blower. His mispronunciation (reel-tor instead of ree-late-er), which he repeated numerous times, might have alarmed the men and women who make their living from the housing market, but it was obviously a misspelling in the Senator’s notes or a simple (if consistent) gaffe.

Lacking a funny, HOH-appropriate defense for his boss’ tongue-twisting, Kyl spokesman Ryan Patmintra had only this to offer: “Um … go, Diamondbacks!— he said, in an unsuccessful effort to change the subject.

Nice try.

Take a Free Ride. The federal government really wants its employees to take public transportation. A lot.

One of the provisions tucked deep in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is a sharp increase in the maximum amount government employees can receive in public-transit benefits each month. The House Administration Committee recently approved that increase for House employees, allowing them to claim up to $230 each month for public transit needs, which is up from $120.

But $230 seems like an awful lot of Metro rides.

In fact, an exhaustive (and highly scientific) HOH study, found that it isn’t even possible for House employees to spend that much using Metro commuting to and from work.

The maximum fare for a Metro ride is $4.50 a trip. If a person pays that fare twice a day, five days a week, his monthly total reaches only $180. (Parking at Metro facilities is not included in the benefits.)

So could government workers wind up banking $50 or more in extra Metro fares a month? Could it be used for one’s morning (and commute-essential) Starbucks fix? Not exactly.

Employees will need to prove the benefit amount they actually will use, and they’ll receive their actual commuting costs or the $230, whichever is lower, according to House Administration spokesman Kyle Anderson.

After all, they wouldn’t want taxpayers to get, uh, taken for a ride.

Bachmann’s Shazam: Wow. Rep. Michele Bachmann says the darndest things. Suggesting during a cable news interview that some of her colleagues are anti-American? Check. Calling a wildlife refuge “the perfect place to drill— for oil? Yep, she did.

So we weren’t surprised, but rather delighted, to hear a new Bachmann-ism from the lips of the Minnesota Republican.

Bachmann punctuated a Wednesday night speech on the House floor with a “Shazam!—

The Congresswoman used the superhero saying during a diatribe about President Barack Obama suggesting that the administration could seek prosecution for some officials who authorized torture. “So what’s next? Is it political show trials?— Bachmann wondered aloud on the floor. “Well, shazam, wouldn’t you know it … .—

Tricia Miller contributed to this report.

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