Whats a Guy Gotta do to Get on C-SPAN?

Whats a Guy Gotta do to Get on C-SPAN?

So last week on Tuesday, March 17, my boss, John Bridgeland, testified in front of the House Subcommittee on Human Resources, which was really cool for a lot of reasons. His testimony and the experience surrounding it will be the topic of this week's blog.

 

I spent much of the two weeks leading up to Bridge's testimony working to help him prepare. The Congressional hearing was called "Expanding Opportunity by Funding What Works: Using Evidence to Help Low-Income Families Get Ahead" and Bridge was called because of his work on a campaign called "Moneyball For Government," which has subsequently been turned into a book. The short of it (or elevator speech, as people say) is about building an evidence base to invest government dollars in what works and reallocating money away from programs that continually fail to meet their stated goals. His testimony focused on studies that have illustrated areas where the federal government continued to spend money on programs that were failing and, in some cases, directed money away from programs, which were having positive impacts and reaching their goals all because of a lack of evidence. (You can find his testimony here.) As there were many statistics in his testimony, it was my job to fact check everything and track down the numbers and studies in his testimony. In addition, to be as prepared as possible, I also wrote summaries of all the studies and reports that are mentioned in the testimony. My diligent work paid off as I was asked to go to the hearing with Bridge.

 

A little side story before I get into the actual hearing. The eve of the hearing happened to be my grandmother's birthday, so I gave her a call that night. At one point during the conversation, she asked about my internship and I explained to her about the hearing and that I would be attending it the the following morning. At hearing this she got really excited, saying: "Oh wow. So you might be on the TV tomorrow!" While I knew this was a long shot, I didn't want to let me grandma down so I told her it was a possibility, thinking (hoping) maybe one of the several C-SPAN channels would have the testimony. I don't she understood that data-backed policy is as interesting to others as it is to me as she ended the conversation, "I'll look for you on the television tomorrow!" Well, low and behold, none of C-SPAN's three channels televised the hearing. Sorry, Gram!

 

As for the actual hearing, it is probably the highlight of my semester thus far. My boss was joined by three other panelists: Grover "Russ" Whitehurst (Brookings Institution), David Mulhausen (Heritage Foundation), and Joan Entmacher (National Women's Law Center). The hearing was surprisingly packed and almost all the members on the Subcommittee were present. While the Subcommittee on Human Resources may not be the most sought after location, notable members include Chairman Charles Boustany (R-LA), Rep. Patrick Meehan (R-PA), Ranking Member Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), and the one and only John Lewis (D-GA). The way a hearing works, for those of who don't know, is the Chairman kicks it off and then invites the panel to speak. Each panelist has five minutes to offer their testimony and then after all panelists testify, each member of Congress has five minutes to ask questions. All four panelists gave very interesting testimony.

 

Now, Congress obviously gets a bad rap nowadays, and deservedly so in a lot of cases, but the Subcommittee really worked well together. There was communication by all members, even across the isle, and they asked great questions. It was possible to tell they all got along and were actually friends and that they all really wanted the same thing: to help low-income families succeed in life.

 

However, the most interesting thing to me was the difference in style of all of the Representatives. Many of the Representatives asked questions and allowed the panelists to talk for several minutes. Some other Congressmen asked a question and then continually interrupted the panelist to push them to a specific point. While most of the Members asked very specific questions, Rep. John Lewis asked a single question to each panelist: Have you ever walked in the shoes of the people who depend on social programs? Finally, the last Congressman to have a turn spent the entire five minutes speaking, punctuated by a single yes-or-no question. The difference in style fascinated me and made me wonder how my style as a Congressman would be...

 

I really enjoyed the opportunity to get a glimpse into how Congress works. I hope I continue to get opportunities like this through the rest of my internship. As always, thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed it.

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