Calling on Congress... A Visit with Representative Andrews

Calling on Congress... A Visit with Representative Andrews

On Friday, April 12th I had the opportunity to meet with my Congressman, Representative Rob Andrews, just to chat and talk public policy. Another great part of The Washington Center's program is a Public Policy Dialogue on Capitol Hill that all TWC students participate in. James Liska - who is the coordinator for these visits - schedules all of the students a visit on the Hill (and I have to say... props to him! I've scheduled meetings for my NGO before and dealing with schedulers and this process can be RIDICULOUS)! For U.S. residents, we hopefully get to meet with our representative, though sometimes it's necessary for students to meet with staff members. Luckily, when he wasn't keeping time on the floor, Congressman Andrews was able to meet with me and four other TWC-ers between sessions. In fact, I was super surprised that Congressman Andrews met with us in the short time he had between obligations. I think it really shows how much he cares about his constituents, and that dedication shined through during our conversation. We met in the Rayburn Room in the Capitol Building, only feet from the floor of the House of Representatives (walking in, we actually saw "the floor" through the open doors - Representatives lingering around debating with each other)!

 

Unleashed

After we got through introductions with the Congressman, he let us start asking questions - any questions - on any topic. No matter our political stance or level of controversy surrounding the issue. BOOM. I was excited. We had to do research prior to our meeting, so I was well prepared with information on Representative Andrews -- the committees on which he serves, his positions on hot topic issues, his legislative history, and more.

 

Ask Me About My Education!

Andrews serves on the Education Committee and has a loud voice on the occurring debates concerning student loans and college education. In the past, he has noted that he feels a greater higher education graduation rate will lead to increased employment, which will lead to an improved economy. And, during our meeting, he even told us about some recent research that showed that students who complete and move on from their first year are much more likely to walk across the stage four years later.

 

With the upcoming expiration of legislation to keep interest rates on Subsidized Stafford Loans (backed by the government) low while keeping loan distribution up, I wanted to know what Representative Andrews thoughts were and what he planned on advocating for when it comes time to discuss student loans with his fellow representatives. So, when he asked who would like to ask the first question, I was more than ready to get the ball rolling. Plus, I wanted to impress him a little... show him I wasn't afraid to talk to him as my district's representative.

 

Meeting with Congressman Andrews

The group in action, discussing public policy with Congressman Andrews

 

Representative Andrews was very honest - not only with my question but with all of those asked. He told us how he really felt about the reality of the issues we targeted. I think that made this experience for me. (For all New Jerseyans and college students alike out there, you'll be happy to hear that Andrews is a supporter of keeping interest loans low despite the $6 billion revenue that would come from increased rates... He says we could find that money from cutting ethanol subsidies, a cut he supports.)

 

Superstorm Sandy Still Hurts

I asked another question also close to my experiences -- this concerning Hurricane Sandy. I wanted to know why it took Congress so long to pass an act to provide aid to Sandy victims (three months) when it took mere days to grant aid to victims of Hurricane Katrina. I think this was the most honest answer we got out of him... He said, straight up, that there were greedy people (he did note them as Republicans) who didn't see the struggles of the people of New York and New Jersey, thought that we were rich folk and therefore didn't think we needed the aid. He also said those people... Well they're pretty stupid because it's CLEAR that New Jerseyans and New Yorkers and others along the coast were quite affected and struggling to recover. I can personally relate. My university is on the Jersey Shore, and we were closed for nearly two weeks while university staff worked to clean-up, humanitarian workers staffed a shelter on our very campus, and clean up crews and volunteers readied the roads for travel - all of this before the town of Long Branch was even reopened to the public again (residents had been evacuated before the storm hit). Congressman Andrews expressed his sympathies and in that moment, and that conversation, he seemed like the most genuine politician I had ever spoken to.

 

Looking Back...

Seeing as this was the first time I'd be communicating with my Congressman in a political light, I imagined I'd benefit greatly from my session with him. I think what I took away from this visit, and the dialogue, was a lot of understanding: clarity concerning how the representative operates with the rest of the body of Congress; in-depth, yet simple, explanation of Congressman Andrew's beliefs on education policy, and the interrelated nature of so many issues that the average person probably thinks Congress addresses separately.

 

Also, it doesn't hurt that I met the marvelous House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) on my visit! As she strolled through the Rayburn Room, posse in tow, Representative Andrews gave her a wave and a "Hey, Nancy!" and Pelosi reciprocated with a "Hey, Rob!" Andrews introduced us as interns from his district working in D.C. and Pelosi proceeded to thank us as his constituents for sending this "brilliant man" (yes, that's a direct quote) to D.C. to represent our state. I was star struck, as if Obama himself had said that to me - mouth wide open, practically drooling. Which made me wonder... how the heck would I act if Obama said something - anything - to me?!

 

Being in New Jersey is completely different from being in D.C., if I haven't made that clear already! This experience furthered my realization about the benefits of participation in TWC's program. I never would have experiences like this visit to Capitol Hill for a public policy dialogue in New Jersey!

 

Group shot!

The group, after an informational and very beneficial discussion, with our congressman. New Jersey First District!

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