After a congenial first Congressional hearing, I had high expectations for the Full Committee Markup on the Interior and Environment Bill. I walked to Rayburn Wednesday morning with a bright smile and optimistic attitude toward the bill and our legislators.
Unlike the previous markup I attended, the full committee didn’t spend any time on pleasantries and instead started introducing amendments right away. I noticed after the first two votes that the room was separated – Republicans all sat together on one side of the room while Democrats sat together on the other. I couldn’t help but compare it to the cafeteria at my high school.
I wondered why there was such a difference in the atmosphere of the subcommittee and the full committee. Subcommittees meet more regularly and with fewer members than full committees, which fosters closer relationships among those members. They are allowed more time to voice their personal opinions and listen to others. At first, I was very frustrated at the way the full committee worked. However, now that I’ve gained some distance, I see that full committees have a very limited amount of time to work through a vast amount of legislation. Arguments must be brief and voting must take place quickly, otherwise we could still be working through bills passed two years ago.
It is important to realize the limitations our leaders are under, especially in these last few weeks of summer. Making decisions for myself is hard enough – I can’t imagine deciding on appropriations and laws for the federal government! I learned Wednesday that I need to have more realistic expectations for our leaders, as they are doing the best they can with the resources they have.
***Written by Erin Cohen