Heller dismisses flap over office suite

The story has received wide play on Capitol Hill but U.S. Sen. Dean Heller on Tuesday dismissed a brouhaha over his coveted office as a joke that went wrong.

"I just think it is all silliness," Heller said about the report that his staff was making it difficult for the staffs of other senators to inspect his office in the Russell Building.

An inspection would be the first step for a senator with more seniority to bump the Nevada Republican out of the sizable suite he inherited when he became a senator in May 2011.

Heller had known from the beginning he would likely lose his office at some point. "I have been clear to my staff we are not staying in that office, we are going to be moving on," he said. "I don't care where my office is."

The Capitol HIll newspaper Roll Call reported Monday several Senate offices had complained to the Senate Rules Committee about difficulties gaining access to check out Heller's office.

In one instance, Roll Call reported Heller Chief of Staff Mac Abrams offered a staffer for Sen. Saxby Chambliss a $10,000 campaign contribution from Heller's political action committee if the Georgia Republican would take a pass on the suite.

Heller said he was unaware of any complaints to the Rules Committee.

But as for the Chambliss matter, "It was a joke, that's what it was, a joke," he said Tuesday. "It was meant in humor and it has become this story."

Still, Heller said he advised Abrams that he probably should apologize.

"I did admonish that it wasn't the accurate thing to say or the right thing to say under the circumstances," Heller said.

"He feels bad," Heller said of his longtime right-hand man. "He considered it telling a joke to a friend and feels really bad it was misinterpreted the way it was. He's not blaming anybody for it."

A Heller spokeswoman told Roll Call that staffers representing nearly 20 senators had asked to inspect the suite, making it a challenge to run the office, hold meetings and greet constituents while dealing with the foot traffic.

There are three Senate office buildings, and office moves are a common occurrence early in each congressional session. It may not become clear for several more weeks if, when or where Heller might relocate within the complex.