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Heard on the Hill: The Saints Are Coming (to the House Floor)

Whenever a sports team wins a championship — from professional organizations down to Little League — it’s common for the Member of Congress who represents the club’s home district to offer praise on the House or Senate floor.

[IMGCAP(1)]Some Members even introduce a resolution honoring the team for its big victory.

But Rep. Anh “Joseph— Cao is taking the tradition to a whole new level. His team hasn’t even won anything yet (but they haven’t lost, either).

The Louisiana Republican, who represents the National Football League’s 12-0 New Orleans Saints, is asking his constituents to submit 200-word statements on how the team’s spectacular season is positively affecting New Orleans. Each week, he’ll select one to read during the one-minute speeches on the House floor and post the clip to YouTube.

Cao is a huge Saints fan, as are most of the folks in his Congressional office, spokesman Princella Smith told HOH. But Cao doesn’t just want to go down to the floor to brag about the Saints’ winning season — the team really is providing a huge uplift to New Orleans, which is still battered after Hurricane Katrina. Cao wants to highlight that, Smith said.

Nearly four years after the storm, so much news out of the Big Easy continues to be negative or even depressing, Smith said.

Except for the undefeated Saints.

“Our morale is up. This is a great boost to our economy; our troops overseas are enjoying it,— she said.

Smith noted that it isn’t just New Orleans that’s getting behind the team — it seems the entire country is jumping on the bandwagon.

“America loves underdogs, and this is a super story about an underdog team and an underdog city,— Smith said. “This is a complete 180 for this team. You kind of have to root for them.—

Rove’s Sugary Secret. Karl Rove doesn’t exactly have the reputation as a warm and fuzzy guy, but he’s certainly no Scrooge. The Fox News analyst sent a giant box of fancy cookies to the network’s Washington bureau as a holiday gift, HOH hears.

Who knew the one-time adviser to former President George W. Bush (known better for his bare-knuckle politicking than his thoughtful gift-giving) was so … sweet?

SNL = Senate Night Live? Now that he’s a Senator, Al Franken’s days as a writer for “Saturday Night Live— are just a distant memory.

Well, maybe not that distant.

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Democrat invited a group of constituents and other visitors attending his weekly “Minnesota breakfast— to pepper him with questions. And he apparently sensed they might find his older résumé entries a little more interesting than his current job.

“Ask me anything you want,— he said. “Except what it was like to work with [John] Belushi — I’m past that. You can ask about Dana Carvey, though.—

Congressional BlackBerry Ban. Attention House staffers: Put that mobile electronic device down.

Don’t worry — House rules say it’s OK. In fact, you have to do it. At least while driving.

House Administration Chairman Robert Brady announced Wednesday that a rule change officially has gone into effect banning any House employee from text messaging while driving a government-owned or leased vehicle. And “texting— is defined pretty darn broadly — no e-mailing, instant messaging, scanning the Internet or even finding navigational information is allowed.

The Pennsylvania Democrat has a pretty good idea of the texting-while-driving phenomena. When Congress is in session, Brady drives from his district in Philadelphia to Washington every day, and he said he’s astonished at how many people text on the road. “There’s nothing that can’t wait for you to pull over,— Brady said.

The House Administration Committee is in the process of adding the new rule to the Member handbook, according to a panel spokesman. It will be up to individual Members to enforce the rule for their own staff. Punishment “could be anything up to and including dismissal,— the spokesman added.

Deborah Hersman, chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board, appeared alongside Brady at the press conference announcing the rule. And Hersman was sympathetic to the impending withdrawal staffers are sure to suffer from without 24/7 access to their mobile devices.

When the NTSB instituted a similar rule change earlier this year, even NTSB staffers, people who are obsessed with highway safety, had to change their lifestyle, Hersman noted.

“Let me tell you, it has not been easy,— she said. “Like so many in this room, I was hooked on my BlackBerry. … It’s very convenient. But you know, it’s not safe.—

Staffers fearful of letting go should remember that the “reliance on electronic devices is a relatively new phenomena,— Hersman said.

She recalled that as a House staffer in the early 1990s, she was charged with getting her Congressman his first mobile phone. It was so large that it had to be kept in its own handbag, and there was a huge antenna attached to the roof of his car.

“Let me tell you, the cell phone service was extremely unreliable,— she said.

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