Seeing Politics in Action

Seeing Politics in Action

A favorite part of my internship at The Chwat Group is being able to get out of the office and venture to Capitol Hill. A large part of the lobbying effort is going to the Hill to speak with members of Congress or their staff to advocate for your client's interests. If you're not meeting with staffers, you're probably at a committee hearing where the topic relates to your client's interests.


I was able to partake in this aspect of lobbying twice this week. My internship supervisor guarantees that every intern goes to the Hill at least once during the semester, but after this week, I have been lucky to go three times. This is especially exciting to me, because I'm a nerdy lover of politics, so I get starstruck seeing big-name politicians in action. The only problem is that I have to refrain from taking my phone out to take pictures of them.


The Hearings

On Wednesday, I went to a hearing for the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform called "Waste and Efficiency in the Federal Government." The issues presented in this hearing related to several of our clients, so I was asked to go to take notes and gather the report issued by the Government Accountability Office, as well as all the witness testimonies.


The hearing went on for a long two-and-a-half hours, but I was thankful to learn that the federal government is actively pursuing ways to cut wasteful spending and operate more efficiently and effectively. In fact, there was one committee member who ranted at one of the witnesses about how he can't sleep at night because of all the wasteful spending and needs answers.


The next morning, I was sent to the Hill again to attend a markup meeting for the same committee. Markup is when a committee meets to deliberate and vote on whatever bills the chairman placed on the agenda for the day.


*WARNING* Story time: When I returned to the office after the first hearing, my boss gave me two bills to get the text, statements, and press releases for. One of those bills was just introduced by the chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah. I didn't think much of it until I went to the markup meeting on Thursday. The bill Rep. Chaffetz had introduced a mere two days before was first on the agenda and was passed. I knew chairmen of congressional committees had a lot of power, but it was shocking to see it with my own eyes. If Rep. Chaffetz was not the chairman of that committee, his bill would have taken a lot longer to be placed on the agenda. I thought it was awesome, but maybe it's just me being nerdy again.


Anyway, I found the markup to be interesting for other reasons as well. Things got slightly heated between Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton from the District of Columbia and the Chairman during deliberation on his own bill. She was very passionate about the subject, and he interrupted her nine minutes in to tell her that he had been very generous with his time and it was time for her to stop talking, essentially. The sass got real at that point. The array of expressions on the other committee members' faces was the most amusing part, though. It fizzled out quickly, but I enjoyed seeing the members so engaged.


I have said this before, but I'll reiterate that it is little intimidating being an intern walking through the congressional office buildings. I try very hard not to look lost (and sweaty) as I'm navigating my way through  the labyrinth also know as the Rayburn House Office Building.


Near the end of the semester, I'm starting to get a hang of it. Getting off the Metro at Capitol South and knowing exactly where to go without Google Maps, clad in my fashion-forward professional attire, I actually felt like I belonged there and could see myself working on the Hill someday.


Simpson-Mineta Leaders Series

We have had quite a few SMLS sessions in the past four weeks. Out of all of them, even the one featuring Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, I was looking forward to this week's session the most.


Our speakers today were former Senate Majority Leaders: Tom Daschle (a Democrat from South Dakota) and  Trent Lott (a Republican from Tennessee).

They spoke about the subject matter in the book they co-wrote, Crisis Point, and how there was greater communication among the leadership across both sides of the aisle when they were in the Senate. They believe this communication has completely evaporated since then, and they argue that this is why U.S. politics is at a "crisis point" - nothing can get done when there is no communication. As Lott wittily put it, "The members leave on Thursday, come back on Tuesday, and try to run the government on Wednesday."


As members of opposing parties, Lott said that he started out knowing of Daschle but not knowing him personally. Later on, he came to respect him, then came to trust him and call him a friend. While they do not agree on most ideological points, they understood the importance of forging a positive relationship with one another and other colleagues. Today's leadership in Congress (*cough* Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell) should definitely take notes.


I stood in line to ask them a question but unfortunately, as I was the the second to last one standing, I didn't get to ask it. I will pose the question here so it doesn't go to waste:


"The New Yorker article 'The Empty Chamber' by George Packer argues that the Senate is broken beyond repair for reasons as institutional as the rules of parliamentary procedure. Do you agree or do you think we can get past these foundational faults?"


Katie's Corner

My restaurant recommendation for this week was a place where my roommates, their friends and I grabbed brunch a couple weeks ago.


We were looking for a place nearby to get a good brunch, specifically with bottomless mimomas and eggs benedict.

The Pursuit Wine Bar down on H Street was featured on an online list of restaurants with bottomless mimosas AND it had great reviews (plus eggs benedict), so we went there.



It was a small space on the ground level where we sat right inside the front window, but there was an upstairs level that I assume had a lot more seating.


All the items on the menu piqued my interest, but ultimately I went with the make-your-own breakfast sandwich option. I got a plain bagel with butter, egg whites, sausage, mixed greens and tomato. It came with fruit and greek yogurt with granola on the side. Our server ensured that the mimosas did not stop flowing. All in all, I would definitely go there again for a low-maintenance weekend brunch.


That's all I have for this week. Check up on my blog next week to read up on the dos and don'ts of dressing professionally!


Until then.


- K

Read Katie's previous blog posts here

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