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  • Courtesy U.S. Rep. Jim Banks Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, kneels in the corner of his Capitol Hill office with a mouse killed in a trap.

Sunday, October 01, 2017 1:00 am

Banks wins one pesky Capitol Hill battle

BRIAN FRANCISCO and NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

When Rep. Jim Banks, R-3rd, took office in January, he let it be known he found mousetraps in his office in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill.

On Wednesday, Banks wrote on Twitter that “509 Cannon has one less occupant” above a photo of him kneeling in a corner of his office and holding a mousetrap with a dead mouse hanging from it.

His staff said in an email that the freshman lawmaker “has seen several live creatures around the office and is pleased to have finally fought back successfully.”

Cannon, built in 1908, is undergoing a massive renovation that began in 2015 and expected to take 10 years.

Banks added the hashtag #freshmanprobz to his tweet. Other postings in that Twitter category include tweets by college students having problems with “screwy” electricity at a dormitory, losing a deodorant and forgetting where a vehicle was parked.

Outside agitator

U.S. Reps. Todd Rokita and Luke Messer are at it again.

After a lull in their public battle for the 2018 Republican nomination for a U.S. Senate seat representing Indiana, Rokita, R-4th, has referenced a GOP Senate fight in another state to hammer again at Messer, R-6th.

Rokita campaign manager Tim Edson sent an email Wednesday comparing Rokita to Roy Moore, a controversial former judge who easily defeated appointed Sen. Luther Strange in a special GOP primary election Tuesday in Alabama. Although President Donald Trump endorsed Strange, Moore clearly was the favored candidate of Trump supporters in that state.

Edson described Rokita and Moore as anti-establishment outsiders and called Messer “the darling” of Indiana's GOP establishment and “the ultimate Republican insider.”

On Thursday, Rokita's campaign announced it released a video “exposing Luke Messer for making disparaging remarks” about Trump last year. At the end of the video, the narrator states, “If you like Donald Trump, you won't like Luke Messer. He's with the elite, not us.”

In response, Messer's campaign said the video was not new; the publication date on its YouTube page is Aug. 16. Messer's campaign also questioned Rokita's outsider claim, noting he has been an elected state or federal official since 2003, and it pointed out that Rokita had endorsed Florida Sen. Marco Rubio for the GOP presidential nomination.

“Luke Messer voted for President Trump in the Indiana Primary and has supported him since. Congressman Rokita is throwing a tantrum after he wasn't able to join the President in Indiana. While he plays politics, Luke is working with the President and Vice President to pass tax relief,” Messer campaign manager Chasen Bullock said in an email.

Messer attended Trump's appearance Wednesday in Indianapolis to tout the Republican plan for revamping the federal income tax code. But when introducing elected officials in the audience, Trump referred to Messer as “Mike Messer.”

Messer later wrote on Twitter: “Well... you win some, you lose some! You still have my support for Tax Cuts @realDonaldTrump! - Luke 'Mike' Messer.”

Rokita's campaign told the Washington, D.C., news organization The Hill that Rokita was invited to Trump's appearance but he chose to stay on Capitol Hill for House votes on legislation.

Also attending Trump's speech were Reps. Jackie Walorski, R-2nd, and Susan Brooks, R-5th, and Sen. Joe Donnelly, D-Ind., whose job Rokita, Messer and four other announced Republican candidates are campaigning for.

Other tidbits of Trump visit

President Donald Trump surprised some in Indianapolis last week by delivering a conventional policy speech with no NFL riffs or other glaring controversies. But he did talk about a few things other than taxes.

Trump opened the speech updating the crowd on the federal government's hurricane response in Puerto Rico. Then he spent a few minutes talking about the latest effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.

Despite Republican congressional leadership saying there would be no vote on the Graham-Cassidy bill, Trump said, “we have the votes.”

But he said a yes-vote senator is “home recovering from a pretty tough situation” that prevented a vote before a legislative deadline. In a tweet he said that senator was in the hospital – something national media reports disputed.

“Because the reconciliation window is about to close, we have to wait a few months until it reopens before we take a vote,” Trump said. “I was hoping this would be put on my desk right after we won the election, and I'd come in and sign. But it didn't work that way. There were a couple of people that – I won't say anything. But early next year when reconciliation kicks back in, in any event long before the November election, we're going to have a vote. And we're going to be able to get that through, and I think we'll actually get it through very easily and the time makes it easier.”

Beverage retailers push Sunday sales

Representatives from the Indiana Association of Beverage Retailers on Friday reaffirmed support for state legislation that would allow for the sale of carryout alcohol on Sundays at liquor and grocery stores.

“The time has come for Sunday sales. We are eager to work together with legislators to successfully draft and pass meaningful and impactful public policy that will allow Hoosiers to purchase alcohol for carryout on Sundays for the first time since prohibition,” the group said in a statement.

The package liquor store industry has been supportive of Sunday sales since it endorsed House Bill 1624 in 2015. However, that bill was killed before receiving a final vote in the Indiana House of Representatives.

To reach Political Notebook, email Brian Francisco at bfrancisco@jg.net or Niki Kelly at nkelly@jg.net. An expanded Political Notebook can be found as a daily blog at www.journalgazette.net/politicalnotebook.