What kind of day is it? Check Obey’s pencils

Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) is known for keeping meticulously sharpened No. 2 pencils in his left breast pocket. The House Appropriations Committee chairman uses the implements for marking up items, taking notes and, occasionally, for chewing.

But ITK has learned that for certain savvy House staffers, the pencils serve as a gauge for determining how long the chairman expects the day’s proceedings to last. Or, as one Republican aide put it, “how mad he is.”

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A senior congressional aide who requested anonymity explained the logic to ITK: “One pencil means appropriations [bills] are going to go smoothly, with no big hiccups, and we’ll be done by lunchtime. But four pencils means I should swing by my office at midday and get some work done, because when I come back at 3 p.m., they’ll still be going strong.”  

Party time for Franken  and friends

Tuesday’s swearing-in of Al Franken (D-Minn.) to the Senate is cause for celebration among Democrats in all 50 states, but ITK has learned that the real party will be Tuesday evening at the AFL-CIO on 16th Street NW.

Franken is listed as the host of the invitation-only victory party, and the guest list will feature prominent Democratic politicos, administration officials and Minnesotans, including Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D) and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who will also attend Franken’s swearing-in ceremony on Capitol Hill.  

Palin: odds-on favorite to run in 2012

Sarah Palin for president?

You can bet on it, thanks to Irish gaming website, paddypower.com, which on Monday began accepting some of the earliest wagers on Sarah Palin’s entry into the 2012 race at odds of 2-5, following the Alaska governor’s announcement that she would resign at the end of this month.

That means a bet of $100 would return $140 (100 percent of the initial bet plus $40) should Palin announce a presidential run.

From there, the odds go down, but the potential returns go up: 5-1 that she’ll secure the Republican nomination ($600 payout), and 10-1 that she’ll be elected president ($1,100 payout).

That’s still not good enough for The National Review’s Matthew Continetti, whose forthcoming book, The Persecution of Sarah Palin, is due next spring. “She has definitely liberated herself from Alaska,” he said, “but anyone who thinks they know what Sarah Palin is going to do next is speaking out of their hat. And that includes me.”

Another Internet gaming site, sportsbook.com, has Palin’s odds of winning the GOP nomination at 3.5-1. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is a close second, with odds of 4-1.

The end of an era

The Trover Shop, a Capitol Hill bookstore and landmark for more than 50 years, will be closing its doors by mid-August, the victim of a tough economy and a changing media landscape.

The bookstore has been the site of some of Capitol Hill’s most memorable book parties over the years, from those feting Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to Party Favors author Nicole Sexton to ABC’s Barbara Walters.

ITK spoke to co-owner Steve Shuman, whose father opened the store in 1957 with partner Harvey Weinstein, and who has been working there full-time with brothers (and co-owners) Al and Andy Shuman for more than 25 years.

“We’re fortunate to own the building, so we won’t have to file for bankruptcy. We have a new tenant moving in this fall, so Aug. 15 is probably going to be our last day.”

Shuman choked back tears as he expressed appreciation for generations of loyal patrons: “Capitol Hill is one of the most remarkable places in the world to live and work, and we’ve been so fortunate to be a part of it.”

The Trover Shop is offering a 20 percent discount on all books and cards.

Expect that discount to increase over the course of the summer.

Twitter me a tuna melt

The return of Congress on Monday from the Fourth of July break ushered in the next Twitter revolution: daily food specials from the House Dining Services.

A small, unassuming sign outside the cafeteria in the Capitol basement proclaimed the new Twitter address: “House Dining Services has joined the Twitter community! Sign up to follow us and hear about special discounts and promotions! Twitter.com/ushrcafes,” the sign read.

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