Tag Archives: the Hill

Top of the Hill

CAROLINE LANFORD | Washington, DC

Can you spot me? Second row in the middle, just to the right of RBG!

Can you spot me? Second row in the middle, just to the right of RBG!

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg called on me to ask the first question after her lecture to 160 of us congressional interns, I could barely contain the gratefulness I felt for having had such an absolutely amazing summer full of so many once-in-a-lifetime experiences. After thanking her for forging the way for women in the field of law, I asked Justice Ginsburg what she saw as the most difficult challenges women will face in the future and what our generation could do to further all the important progress she has already made. Her advice really spoke to me as I reflected on my professional plans:

Artificial barriers no longer exist for you, but there still are a number of problems that laws cannot solve– they can help, but they cannot be the sole solution. Perhaps most important of these is the home and work balance… I think more and more men are realizing that they’re missing something when they give up time at home with their children to focus solely on a career… I see it with my son and my son-in-law… When or if you have a husband, it is important that he knows that his work is no more important than yours… No one has it all all at once. People look back and say, “Oh, you’ve had it all!” and I have, but I never had it all all at once. It is important to live a balanced life.

I felt that the advice she gave me (and my fellow interns) really was the perfect summation, both professionally and personally, to an amazing summer.

In this last half of my time at the House Committee on Homeland Security, I have gotten to work on a few bigger projects. These three have been my favorite:

  • Going on the House floor with Rep. Cedric Richmond (D- LA 2) as he argued in favor of five bills from our committee that were all eventually passed.

    I made it on C-SPAN! Life complete!

    I made it on C-SPAN! Life complete!

  • Drafting statements for Rep. Yvette Clarke (D- NY 9) to read during passage of six science and technology bills. You can see/hear Rep. Clarke’s floor statements here: http://www.c-span.org/video/?c4506155
  • Helping research and draft the fact sheet, section-by-section analysis, and op-ed for a bill that was finally introduced with a senate companion the week before August recess. You can learn about the CORRECT Act here.

From these projects I think I’ve gained a lot of practical knowledge on how to digest and gather information and then present it in a way that’s concise, informative, and convincing. I also learned a lot of very technical information about the

Branch 1: the judicial

Branch 1: the judicial

Department of Homeland Security and how it and Congress operate that might not be as immediately applicable to my university studies. But I truly believe that everything I’ve learned this summer will be useful as I continue to study politics and eventually work in the political field. I wasn’t sure if I would want to work on the Hill after I graduated, but now I can easily see myself working with the committee again next summer.

Branch 2: the legislative

Branch 2: the legislative

Branch 3: the executive

Branch 3: the executive

For those interested in getting a taste of the Hill environment, I highly encourage you to reach out to your local Representatives and Senators. Each office takes about 5 to 10 interns every summer, and, if a member of your state’s congressional delegation is chair or ranking member of a committee, committee staffs take interns every season as well. As most things in DC go, it helps if you know someone (or someone who knows someone) in the office so that your email doesn’t get lost in the heaps of communication those offices get every second. But asking around and being proactive is always a good strategy no matter what field you’re interested in.

There’s really nothing like being a part of the very process that I’ve been studying for so many years of my life now. I am so grateful for this experience, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in government, politics, or policy. I will be back in Nola soon, but, until then, I’ll just keep power walking. 🙂

Working for the Weekend

CAROLINE LANFORD | Washington, DC

lincoln memorialSo 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 legislationCongressional Baseball game
  • 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
John Boehner

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 washington-dc-fireworksminute 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.

Until next time, just keep power walking!

That time I ran into John McCain in the Senate tunnels: Day 2 at CHS

CAROLINE LANFORD | Washington, DC

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!)John McCain

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:Capitol

  • 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 abimage[2]out 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!