2013 PFIG Recipient Lauren Cricchi
Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy
Leadership and Public Policy Major
2014 Graduation Year
Internship: US House of Representatives, Office of Congressman Eric Cantor
Notes on the first week
This summer, I am interning in the Washington D.C. personal office of my district’s representative, Congressman Eric Cantor. The responsibilities of this office, Room 303 in the Cannon House Office Building, is to take all calls, faxes, mail, and email from constituents and record their concerns; to hold meetings between constituents or other stakeholders in important policy areas and the staff members who are responsible for that policy; and to greet anyone from the 7th district of Virginia who stops by our office and may want a tour. Because of his leadership position as the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Cantor’s office has one of the biggest conference rooms in any of the House office buildings, and our phones are constantly ringing with calls not only from people in our district but from people across the nation who want to express their concerns and feelings on whichever policy is most relevant that day.
As an intern, it is my primary responsibility to take care of the constituent concerns and make sure they feel that they are being heard and represented. I also help the staff with whatever they may need, whether that be distributing informative content and news to different legislative assistants, making coffee every morning, or drafting event invitations to send to constituents. I sit at the front desk of Cannon 303, which means I greet all guests as they arrive, I help constituents set up tours of the Capitol building, and I am fortunate to get to witness most of the day to day happenings of a Congressman’s office. Just this first week, I have seen groups lobbying both in favor and in opposition to immigration reform, a highly relevant issue at this time; I have seen hundreds of letters from people in and out of our district expressing their opinions on everything from credit unions to immigration to education reform; and I was even able to attend a speech given by General Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, through an intern lecture series.
My office is constantly buzzing, and I learn something new every hour. There is many a blog post about the goofy things that Capitol Hill interns are found doing or asking of staffers, and I am continually avoiding blunders and trying not to get lost in the maze of tunnels that winds below the buildings. My goals moving forward will be to more thoroughly understand the legislative process and the rules that govern policymaking on the House floor, as well as master the material we were given in order to give successful tours of the Capitol. I can only hope that experience will lend itself to insight and confidence as my weeks in D.C. continue, and I am excited to see what lies ahead of me for the remainder of the summer.
I can’t believe I am already halfway through with my summer internship on Capitol Hill. I have continued to learn something new every day, whether it be about myself, about members of Congress and their philosophies, or about current policy issues and their potential consequences and benefits. Many of these things I learn from speaking with my fellow interns or staff members in the office, who are all smart, young, ambitious, and committed to public service. It has given me new energy and excitement about the possibility of working on Capitol Hill after graduation, something I hadn’t necessarily considered before the start of this internship. I see staffers who are committed to addressing the concerns of Eric Cantor’s constituents, as well as creating policies, amendments, and letters to colleagues in the House of Representatives to persuade them to vote a particular way on a bill. Being at the epicenter of lawmaking and the government as a whole is more rewarding than I expected, and would inevitably open doors to me I never even imagined.
As for my own duties I am still stationed at the front desk and love my time there. While I may not have been able to see the legislative process in action on the House floor yet, I feel like I am contributing in a meaningful way to the function of our office. As a student in the Business Spanish minor program and a somewhat fluent Spanish speaker, I have been able to use my language skills to communicate with people both over the phone and in person who are limited in their ability to understand and speak English. It is so rewarding to see the signs of relief on a person’s face or hear it in their voice when I say “Yo hablo español,” and I hope to continue to make life easier for other Spanish-speaking callers who are trying to voice their concerns. I have also been able to connect with several people who have stopped by the office, whether they be people I know from U.V.A or I know from the 7th district, where I am also a constituent of Majority Leader Cantor. These personal connections are something I have been pleasantly surprised by, and have helped me find satisfaction with this type of public service that I hadn’t expected.
Moving forward, I want to keep asking lots of questions as I grow closer to the staffers in our office. I want to go see the lively debate on the floor that is the root of our nation’s governing process, and watch important decisions be made in the last week that Congress is in session before the August recess, which promises to be exciting. I would love to finally give a tour of the Capitol (I’ve been practicing!), and I want to continue to go to lectures given by influential and powerful people in D.C. from whom I can glean advice and inspiration about a life of service through the government. I have seen service through entrepreneurship and through non-profit work in the past, and this internship will help give me a wholesome idea of all of my options to consider when entering the world of public service.
It is hard to believe my summer in Washington D.C. has come to a close. I felt as if I was just getting in the swing of things when I had to pack up my bags. The second half of the internship proved to be every bit as interesting as the first half, albeit the structure being a little different.
The last week before August recess on Capitol Hill was a whirlwind. The news stations were ramping up their coverage, representatives were putting forward brand new legislation, and there were hundreds of phone calls to our office as a result. I was fortunate enough to go to two different hearings that week, one in front of the full House Committee on Ways and Means and the other before its Subcommittee on Human Resources. While these hearings are always available to the public through C-Span, it was a different experience entirely to be able to witness the political process first hand, and I now know that committee and subcommittee hearings are a vital component of the process in order to get information to those that make the important decisions for our nation and allow them to argue their positions. As an example, the full committee hearing titled, “IRS Implementation of the Tax-Related Provisions in the Affordable Care Act,” was a fiery and groundbreaking exchange. From the moment the questioning began, both Republican and Democratic Members were accusatory, defensive, and most importantly, passionate. Everything I had seen on the news, read in the papers, or watched on the House floor was manifesting itself in Longworth Room 1100. I was soaking up every moment of this democratic process, and that hearing will stay with me for a long time.
After a busy and important last week in session, Capitol Hill grew still. With no Members in town, there was no one to lobby, no one to testify in front of, and not much to call in angrily about as a constituent. The last two weeks of my internship overlapped with this August recess, and while there was not nearly as much action in Cannon HOB, I tried to make the most of my remaining time in Congressman Cantor’s office. I made many a trip over to the Capitol, exploring the beautiful corridors of the House Leadership offices where Cantor and Congressman Boehner spent most of their time, including seeing the incredible balcony view up the National Mall to the Washington Monument that belongs to the Speaker of the House. I escorted guests of our office all over Capitol Hill, sharing with them details from my internship and giving advice to eager young high school students. I even got to take a tour of the Capitol Dome! Most importantly, however, I asked questions. The legislative assistants in my office were more than happy to talk openly with me about their jobs, about what issues were going to be most furiously debated upon come September, how exactly our office decided as a team to move forward on different pieces of legislation, and a wide variety of other topics. I now feel armed with substantial information as well as contacts from my summer internship should I never need advice, assistance, or answers in the future.
This summer was an unforgettable experience, and definitely put me in a great position as I begin to consider jobs for after graduation. I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to learn so much and become passionate about our nation’s democratic process and what it means to be a civil servant, and I could not have done it without my Parent’s Committee Internship Grant. Thank you for the experience of a lifetime!