A Brief Note On Capitol Hill Internship

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Gabriella Passidomo gpassidomo@ufl.edu UFID: 7111-3198

Gabriella Passidomo
POS 4940
Capitol Hill Internship, Congressman R. DeSantis (FL-6)
2 August 2013 “A minute percentage of young people have a change to come see their government at work and to go behind the curtain…If you come to Washington with a curiosity—how does it work, how important the staff is to the functioning of government, the service aspect of government—then it can be a really great education for you, no matter what you`re studying,” (Rep. Jo Bonner (R-AL) in Mershon 2011). My alarm rings persistently, its 5:30 a.m. and I feel as if it was only minutes ago when I drifted to sleep; I need to get to the gym before my workday begins at 8:30. When I sit at my desk, listening to a constituent scream through the phone asking, “How could we (as in all of Congress) allow something to occur?” and, “What am I going to do about it?” and doing my best not to scream back, “I am not a member of Congress, ma`am! I don`t vote on legislation, I`m an unpaid intern!” I think to myself, is this worth it? Without a hair of doubt, I believe it is. The twelve weeks I spent in Washington, D.C. interning on Capitol Hill provided me with a unique and unparalleled educational experience that opened my eyes to a Congress that has not and cannot be explained in any textbook. I learned what truly goes on in a U.S. Congressional office, what issues the staff chooses to address, the necessary procedures for constituent and legislative tasks, and above all else, I got to experience lawmaking and Congress in action. I sat in the House gallery and witnessed floor debates on proposed amendments and legislation. I attended committee hearings and mark-ups regarding issues I have read much about. I researched legislation and organizations for the legislative assistants in my office, ipso facto on behalf of the Congressman. Consequently, my responsibilities expanded as the weeks passed and I proved I was both capable and thirsty for more tasks. Although my previous education from my political science courses did come in hand throughout my internship, the information I gained by experiencing what I had learned in these classes was far more extensive and enlightening than anything demonstrated in a classroom. In a classroom, would I have understood the variety to which Congressional offices are structured—how a freshman member`s office drastically differs from a long-time incumbent`s? Would a classroom have opened my eyes to the young and transitory spirit that pervades Capitol Hill? It is difficult to articulate the essence of the Hill, of Congressional members and their staff, of Washington, D.C. for that matter; however, I believe the exposure I was subject to while working on the Hill is something that simply cannot be taught in a classroom. For example, I do not ever remember my professors warning me, “If you want to work on Capitol Hill, learn how to play softball.” My activities varied day-to-day, all dependent on a myriad of factors including whether Congress was in or out of session, what legislation was a “hot issue” that week, how much constituent mail and/or requests our office received, and the number of tours scheduled for the day. Giving tours of the Capitol to constituents was one of my favorite and most rewarding jobs I had in my internship. The Capitol building is truly an extraordinary demonstration of the beauty, progress, wealth, and unity that defines our nation`s history. To truly understand the legislative body of the United States` government, how and why Congress functions the way it does, I believe it necessary to visit the site from which all lawmaking takes place. I guided constituents around the building, through the old House, Senate, and Supreme Court chambers, and into the present House Gallery, where we watched members of Congress debate on real pieces of legislation, legislation that I had been studying and