Cynics among us might like to make wisecracks about those "rats" who inhabit the space under the big green dome in Harrisburg.

Well, no honest-to-God rats have been found in the Capitol, but the place is apparently overrun with mice.

The Capitol cafeteria, where lobbyists and lawmakers, clerks and scribes alike dine daily, was shut down just after the lunch rush on Thursday after evidence of rodent infestation was found.

"There were mouse droppings around the facility too numerous to mention," Department of Agriculture spokesman Justin Fleming told the Patriot-News of Harrisburg last week.

Officials also found dishwashers lacking heat to properly sterilize items, Fleming said.

Philadelphia-based Aramark (named to Fortune magazine's Most Admired Company list this year) has submitted winning bids to run the cafeteria since Gov. Rendell took office in 2003. The company failed to respond to the Patriot-News' request for comment.

Officials with the Department of General Services - which oversees the operations of the Capitol complex - were none too pleased with the news.

"We are extremely disappointed that Aramark allowed this to occur," said spokesman Ed Myslewicz. "We are holding them completely responsible. We want immediate action."

Seems cafeteria patrons are still waiting for action too. The cafeteria was closed down Friday as well. It's unclear if it will reopen for the few staffers (and scribes) holding down the fort during Christmas week.

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