Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Diary of an Intern: First Congressional Markup!

I learned of my internship at Advocacy Associates back in March and did what any college girl my age would do – I made a Pinterest board of work outfits, apartment decorations, and pretty pictures of the Capitol. I allowed myself to be swept up in romantic notions of spending the summer in the city. So when I stepped off my train at Union Station, suitcases and Metro card in hand, I had a bit of a culture shock and realized I had my work cut out for me. Coming from a small town in Georgia, DC has been a place of many firsts for me, including my first trip to a Congressional markup as part of the Advocacy Associates team.

Last Wednesday, Tess and I rode the Metro to the Capitol South station to cover the markup of the FY13 Interior and Environment Bill. As a newbie to the Metro system, I was glad to learn that the station was only a block from the House office buildings. In the 100 degree heat, not walking too far was great! The hallways in the office buildings were confusing – it seemed like the room numbers didn’t make much sense. I could probably work on the Hill for years and still not know my way around. I’m not sure how Congressional interns do it!

After we found the room, we waited in a line outside for about an hour and a half. Though we arrived very early, Tess and I were some of the last to make it into the room and had to stand in the back. I will definitely remember that for next time!

After years of hearing about the “battles” on Capitol Hill between Republicans and Democrats, I was expecting nothing short of a smack-down in the subcommittee room. I’m sure the look on my face was nothing short of confused when all members were genuinely friendly towards each other. During the meeting, everyone turned their comments to Rep. Dicks, who is retiring after 36 years in Congress. Each member expressed their appreciation and respect for him and the work he has done throughout his career. When it came time for Rep. Dicks to speak, he actually became very emotional and had a hard time getting through his prepared statements. 

When specifics about the bill came up, each member expressed his or her opinions politely but defended their positions emphatically. The meeting was relatively brief but I find myself still analyzing certain aspects. I appreciated being able to see the more human side of our government. I’d always imagined Congress to be more of a machine than a group of individuals. Witnessing negotiations and debate changed the way I view our leaders, and I have even more respect for them now. 

Tomorrow I am headed back to the Hill to cover the full committee markup. Now that I know a bit more about what to expect, I am confident that I will be able to dig deeper into specifics of the bill and the political ramifications of the decisions made by the committee. In time, I hope to be just as savvy on the Hill as my colleagues (and able to find my way around, too!). 

***Written by Erin Cohen

1 comment:

Dorinda Mensah said...

Erin its awesome you found a good place to express yourself and share discoveries. Wishing you all the best in DC :)