I have been in town for about a week-and-a-half now. I'm working at the University of Michigan DC Office this summer. The office focuses on the University's federal relations. We track legislation on issues concerning the school and lobby on its behalf. Doesn't provide me with the kind of round-the-clock access to big shots as working at the NRSC did, but it provides different kinds of really cool opportunities, which is cool. It's a small office (four full-time staff), which means I'm the only intern, and the staff does a good job of including me in what they do. I've been able to tag-along to a number of meetings with Congressional staffers and other interest groups to learn about issues Michigan cares about and watch as my bosses advocate for the University. I've definitely learned a lot about immigration, patents and taxation and how these issues affect the University.
The first week I was here was a bit slow because Congress was in recess. Since they weren't in town, there wasn't anyone to lobby, so there was little for our office to do. That sucked because there was so much down time, but on the flip-side, it meant a few half-days, which gets no complaints with me. My sister was also in town for a bit, so having some extra free time was nice.
Congress was back in session during week 2, so work has picked up. I've been able to spend some more time on the Hill this week, attending meetings and hearings. On Monday I went with my boss to discuss a patent reform bill with staff from Sens. Levin and Stabenow's offices, which was really fun and really interesting/informative. The next day I was sent to an Appropriations hearing on the House-side that discussed the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services. I decided to make an afternoon out of it, so I started with lunch on the Senate-side, then I decided to take the Capitol subway over to the House side. The subway is only available for members and staffers, so I made up an excuse to get a guest pass to ride it. Always a fun ride. To get from the Senate-side to the House-side, you start at the Senate office buildings, get off at the Capitol, walk to the other side of the building, then hop on another subway to the House office buildings. As I got off at the Capitol, the Senate Republican lunch was getting out, so I ran into a bunch of my peeps. Saw Senators Lindsay Graham, Susan Collins, Mike Johanns, John Barrasso, and David Vitter on my ride. I was able to briefly say hi to Senators Jim Bunning, Judd Gregg and Johnny Isakson. I told Gregg that I liked his healthcare plan, which he proposed the day before (it was similar to something I suggest in a PoliSci paper I wrote this year). I met Isakson last summer, so Bunning and Gregg are new to my list. Given that some of the people I met from last year are no longer in office, I need to come up with a new list.
I finally got to the hearing and it was interesting. Kathleen Sebelius, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, testified and it was interesting to hear her priorities. The hearing, which was supposed to be about the department's appropriations request, turned into a a debate on a government-backed health insurance plan, which is always a good, partisan time.
After the hearing I went to a reception with my boss. Receptions are always a good time for interns. Sure they're a bunch of old people talking about stuff we don't know/care about, but they ALWAYS have free food. As my boss told me, "Play your cards right, you can get dinner covered." Not only did this reception have some good food, it was to honor Speaker Nancy Pelosi! So she stopped by and gave some remarks. That was cool. Also, I got my dinner covered, which was nice.
On Wednesday I went to a Senate Commerce Committee hearing on Chrysler/GM Dealership closures. It was really fun to watch Senators tear apart Chrysler and GM's CEOs. On my way to the hearing I ran into Johnny Isakson again. Twice in two days...at the rate we're going we'll be BFFs by the end of the summer. Also said hi to Sen. Bernie Sanders (who's crazy). One final celebrity run-in for the day: Jesse Jackson. He was sitting in on the hearing and we both left in the middle and I ran into him as we were walking back. I was in front of me and I decided to say hi. Here's how that went down:
Me: "How ya doin', Rev. Jackson!
Me: You enjoying the hearing? (because I couldn't think of anything better to say)
Then we walked back into the hearing room, which was cool because it looked like I was walking in with him, like I was part of his posse or something.
DC life has been great. Second time around has been like a continuation of the first. Coming off the plane (and being smacked by the heat and humidity), I felt like everything was just as I had left it last summer, which I love because it makes me feel like I never left the city. My metro card from last summer worked just the same, the metro rides are just as I remember them to be, the dorm feels the same. It really feels like the past year never happened.
This summer I'm the coordinator of the Michigan intern program, so I have to organize things for the group to do. The group is about 70 kids, which is nice because they're a fun and interesting group to be around. So far we've had an outing to Ben's Chili Bowl (an amazing DC staple) and some other low-key events (like watching the Wings).
On Saturday a few of us went up to Baltimore for the Tigers/Orioles game, which was a great time, other than the trek up there. To get there we had to take the metro to the end of the line, transfer to a bus that took us to the Baltimore Airport, then take another train to the stadium. That was a three-hour ride. The game itself was a lot of fun. We went to a really fun pre-game tailgate near the stadium which was a cool way to get food and hang out before the game. Justin Verlander (my Tiger) was pitching and he was HOT. There were a lot of Tigers fans there too, as well as people wearing Red Wings jerseys, which was nice. Camden Yards is a beautiful park and our seats were really nice. For some reason they decided to play Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'" before the ninth inning, which was strange, given the "Born and raised in South Detroit" line. Anyways, the three of us who went to the game got up and screamed that line, much to the chagrin of the Baltimore fans sitting around us. A bunch of drunk ones starting yelling stuff at us afterwards, stuff like "MOTOR CITY GOING DOWN!" and "HOW ARE THOSE LIONS!," to which we astutely replied "THOSE ARE YOUR CARS TOO!" and "WE'RE WATCHING A BASEBALL GAME, NOT FOOTBALL!" We also added some hockey ones too, given the Wings, stuff like "HOW'S YOUR HOCKEY TEAM!" They didn't seem to get the taunt, as their response was "We don't have one..." Anyways, that was a highlight. Another highlight was that the Tigers won 6-3, but we had to leave before the bottom of the ninth to catch the train to BWI to catch the bus to take us back to the Metro to take us home. Another three hours. So six hours round-trip for a three hour game. Might not seem worth it, but it was. GO TIGERS.
So that's my time in DC so far. Hope you enjoyed. More updates will come soon.