After months of hard work, it was finally time to pull out all the stops and make a highly anticipated trip to Capitol Hill to lobby congressional staffers! Dressed to the nines, as any three young professionals in DC should be, two colleagues and I left our cozy Eastern Market office for the mountainous doom and gloom of Capitol South for the day. Our objective: to successfully lobby three offices into co-sponsoring or supporting HR 3344, which deals with issues of human trafficking and foreign labor processes.
Our journey started in the annals of the Rayburn office building, and luckily for us, it was downhill from the metro station. We made our way up to the office of Rep. John Conyers Jr., where we had the only normal meeting of the day in a room filled with Smithsonian items. Did you know that members of Congress could rent items out of the Smithsonian back in the day? We didn’t either. But apparently this only worked for Rep. Conyers because of his illustrious tenure on the Hill. Aside from the wondrous nature of the office, the meeting was a home-run in every sense of the word, and we can look forward to a bright new relationship.
Our second meeting took place in the office of Rep. Chris Smith, whom we had the pleasure to meet for about 15 seconds before he excused himself to give a speech on the floor. No big deal. Side note: Did everyone in the world besides me know that there is an underground tram that runs from the office buildings to the Capitol? Crazier yet, ABC conducts interviews with Senators on it. You can see an example here. But I digress. Our second meeting didn’t go quite as planned. We had to settle for a phone interview, but it was very positive. Rep. Smith’s office is very aware of human trafficking issues and looked forward to working with us in the future.
Lastly, we met with a staffer from Rep. Rohrabacher’s office. Unfortunately, she could only meet with us for a few minutes in the lobby of the O’Neil building, but there were some good takeaways from it. We had expected that she would put up the most resistance to supporting the bill, but nothing could be further from the truth. The staffer was very excited to review the materials we provided, and looked forward to corresponding with us on any issues she might have with the bill.
Overall, it was a busy but rewarding day. All of our efforts over the semester culminated into tangible action, and it is always nice to see hard work pay off. The only sad bit is that I will not be here in the spring to finish what I’ve started. With the session winding down, it does not seem like HR 3344 will make it to the floor, despite its bipartisan support. What we hoped to achieve was the commitment of members of Congress in leadership roles to re-introduce and co-sponsor similar legislation if and when it gets brought up. I believe that if CGS continues to push for support, it will be easy to see similar legislation passed and approved by the President in the coming session.
One thing we learned from lobbying is that it's a lot easier to contact your local representatives than people may think, and they aren’t all as crooked as some would have you believe. If you believe in an issue enough, meet with your representative and have a discussion about it. Better yet I’ve heard if you really push them, you can have lunch with them or get some coffee around the Capitol over a nice discussion. The bottom line is, they’re still in DC because their job is to represent YOUR interests. Let your interests be heard.