Heard on the Hill

The Vermin Occupying Capitol Hill

Pest control service has been coming to the House every day for the last 15 years

Rep. Jim Banks disposes of a mouse caught in a trap in the Cannon House Office Building. (Courtesy Tanner Spencer via Twitter)

Pests on Capitol Hill aren’t limited to stubborn Republicans or recalcitrant Democrats. There have always been real vermin roaming around the Capitol complex, dating back to the days when cats used to stalk the halls to keep them under control.

Recently, a flurry of mouse sightings have reportedly disturbed the House side. The rodents have been spotted in members’ offices. They have scurried through the Rayburn House Office Building cafeteria. In the Longworth House Office Building, they have broken up coffee breaks in the Dunkin’ Donuts, which opened in 2016.

For the past 15 years, the Architect of the Capitol, which is responsible for such things, has had a pest control service in the Capitol complex every day, an AOC spokeswoman said. Two days a week, the contractor specifically addresses food service areas.

[Dunkin’ Donuts Opens in Longworth]

Pest control is on call 24/7, according to the AOC.

“When there are potential issues or concerns, we encourage staff to contact the House Superintendent’s office at 202-225-4141 so we can increase remediation efforts as needed,” the AOC spokeswoman said.

What happens when you give the superintendent a call? You can stop standing on your desk and yelling, because help is on the way.

“Following an initial call from an office, someone will visit that office to obtain more detail on the situation. Traps or other measures will be deployed, as appropriate. For offices that have multiple pest sightings, we provide follow up at least twice weekly and have the building inspector make daily visits to provide updates and solicit feedback,” the spokeswoman said.

Various traps are deployed around the Capitol. You may not see them at first in the waiting areas of offices, but they can be found under desks and furniture.

A staffer for Indiana Rep. Jim Banks tweeted a photograph Wednesday of his boss holding a mouse caught in a trap that AOC set in the office. “509 Cannon has one less occupant,” staffer Tanner Spencer wrote.

Banks’ office is in the Cannon House Office Building, where a huge, ten-year restoration project is under way. Construction can cause mice to be displaced.

Pests turned up in Rayburn too. “Okay, literally saw a mouse scurry around the floor of Rayburn cafeteria so I am getting the hell out of here,” Defense News reporter Valerie Insinna tweeted Tuesday.

It was not the first time a rodent has raided the cafeteria. “In the Rayburn cafeteria and not a person in sight (heellooo recess),” Whitney Wyszynski wrote in February. “I have seen two mice scampering about.” 

Another outlet for mouse-spotters is the Office of Compliance.

“In the past, the Office of Compliance has looked into issues of vermin in Capitol Hill areas,” Deputy Executive Director Paula Sumberg said. “The General Counsel’s staff responds to claims from legislative branch employees and can open a case on any safety and health issue for investigation.”

To open a case, staffers can fill out a “Request a Safety and Health Inspection” form on the OOC website.

The form asks employees for a description of the hazard that details “the unsafe acts and/or hazardous conditions and any injuries, illnesses, or ‘close calls’ caused by these acts or conditions.”

It also gives people the opportunity to remain anonymous, as long as the filer is “an employee or a representative of an employing office in the Legislative Branch” who “believe[s] that a safety or health hazard exists in the workplace.”

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