So much has happened since my first week here on the Hill! In the first half of my summer, I’ve already
Assisted Members of Congress and LAs at our full committee mark-up where CHS ordered reported all eight bills with favorable recommendations
Wrote the report for one of those bills (H.R. 4812)
Researched cyber security and education data technology for a joint hearing with the Education and Workforce committee
Met with Google’s congressional affairs representative about ed. tech regulations and legislation
Drafted memos on immigration and the technology sector for Members traveling to Silicon Valley
Assisted Members at a full committee hearing on the unaccompanied children crossing the border into Mexico with DHS Sec. Jeh Johnson and the directors of FEMA and CBP
Revised a Section by Section Analysis and helped write a fact sheet for an upcoming bill
Drafted and reviewed floor statements for Members during votes on five of the bills the committee ordered reported from our markup
Drafted an op-ed on soon-to-be-introduced legislation
Speaker Boehner after addressing our group of 400 Hill interns
So far, the most challenging but also most rewarding things I’ve done have involved writing. I’ve never really enjoyed writing, and it is often very difficult for me, but I’ve loved being able to see things I’ve written be useful for legislation and even get read and spoken by Members of Congress. It’s invaluable to be able to communicate complex facts and ideas in a coherent and convincing manner, so I think this practice writing on a number of different issues and for different audiences and purposes will be highly important to both my academic and professional pursuits in the future.
I’ve continued to learn a lot more about the behind-the-scenes process of how policy is made and what exactly happens on the Hill. I got to attend a surprisingly entertaining lecture by Speaker of the House John Boehner just a few days after the shocking GOP Majority Leader and Whip elections, and cheered on CHS’s very own Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-LA, 2) at the 52nd Annual Congressional Baseball Game with the rest of my office. In interactions like these and in just walking around the Capitol, I’ve already learned a lot about how important personal relationships and political strategy are to the policymaking process.
Independence Day in the National Capital was amazing, and I’ve absolutely loved every minute of being in DC! There are always so many friendly, intelligent, and interesting people with so many different backgrounds here. It’s truly an international city in a small town.
My second day on the job at the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security (CHS*), I was trying to find the Senate Judiciary hearing on constitutional amendment SJR 19, when I ran into former Republican presidential nominee and U.S. Senator from Arizona John McCain and the U.S. Senator from Vermont Bernie Sanders. (In my starstruck hurry to document as unobtrusively as possible my first brush with power, I sort of disregarded any attempt to focus the camera… sorry!)
Afterwards, a fellow intern leaned in to tell me that I had done a great job being low-key in my paparazzi stunt, because he had just whipped his phone out and started snapping away, which unfortunately did far more to reconfirm my self-consciousness than validate my yuppiness.
I spent a lot of time this first week attending training/orientations/lectures since the House was out of session all this week– it gets pretty slow when the Members aren’t actually here. So far, I’ve had security and ethics training (mandatory for all congressional staff), staff-led tour training (I can now give tours of the Capitol!), and have gotten my official staff badge! So far at the office, the other four interns and I have been drafting briefs of reports, attending lectures, and running errands around the Hill to the Members’ offices, the hearing room, and the Capitol. My favorite activities so far are:
Learning about the recent presidential elections from the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine
Finding out all the secret tricks and facts about the Capitol for tour training
Learning about all the bills ready for markup (this Wednesday) from the directors of each of the Homeland Security Subcommittees at our weekly staff meetings
Watching the House vote on a bill that originated in our committee
Seeing this everyday:
Some of the most interesting/surprising things I’ve found out so far are:
Congress really is hyper-polarized. Everything (e.g. seating, break rooms, committee staff, even pages) is divided so that Republicans have their own and Democrats have their own. The two do not mix.
If you look like you know where you’re going, people will assume that you know where you’re going. Even though you really have no clue.
“Networking” is a skeezy-sounding term for the very ordinary task of making friends with people, genuinely taking an interest in others, and helping them out when you can. For example, last summer, I was working at the Department of Commerce (DOC) in the International Trade Administration (ITA) when one of my friends asked me more about my internship because she thought it sounded really interesting. Last semester, I forwarded her contact info to my boss when another internship position became available, and now my friend has the job I had last summer. I learned about my current internship in a similar manner.
Capitol Police are some of the nicest and most helpful people you will ever meet.
*In Washington, something isn’t important until it has an acronym. Perhaps I’ll start signing my emails CVL?
That’s about all from the Hill for now! This week I’m hoping to continue learning about cybersecurity programs and chemical/biological weapons detection technologies in the subcommittee hearing tomorrow and the full committee markup on Wednesday. There’s also a Senate Judiciary hearing on the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Wednesday that should also prove to be pretty interesting. Until then, just keep power walking!