Wendy is the fourth Antioch
Congressional Progressive Caucus
Fellow to work with Representative
Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ)
July 13, 2010
I can hardly believe that I have already been here for almost two months.
DC as a whole is great. It’s very hot and humid, but I love taking public transportation to work every day (even if it isn’t always incredibly smooth). It’s also great to be somewhere where there are so many people who are passionate about issues. Also, I have always been a bit of a political nerd so being in the thick of the political scene is really fun.
The past few weeks have gone by in a whirlwind. From the beginning, I have had the task of updating the daily email that goes out to the staff of the U.S. Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) members. The email has the “Dear Colleagues” (which are letters from the members requesting support for legislation or events, briefings, etc.) of other CPC members, and there are always new things to put in, take out and update. Coordinating this daily communication has oriented me quickly to the work of the Caucus and introduced me to the variety of issues and initiatives that CPC members are addressing. I have also done a lot to prep for the CPC member and staff meetings, which are every other week. Andrea, the Caucus’s executive director, has been taking me to other relevant meetings as well. I also have extensively updated the CPC website, which has been a great learning experience for me. Check it out at http://cpc.grijalva.house.gov/
My favorite things that I have done thus far include a letter that I drafted on behalf of the CPC chairs to the U.S. House of Representatives’ Democratic leadership asking the Speaker to support legislation to create jobs. I also researched and wrote up a one-pager on the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (a.k.a. the Debt Commission) which was convened by President Obama earlier this year to bring the national debt down to a more manageable level. The informational one-pager was just meant to give the basics to the CPC members on what the commission is supposed to do, how, and when, and who sits on the commission. Well at the CPC meeting, a member complimented the document and said that he hadn’t seen all the information put together like that before and it was incredibly helpful just to have such a great summary and background. Of course, Andrea and I were the only people in the room who knew that I was actually the one being complimented. But all the same, it still meant a lot. I have continued to work on this CPC issue, and we are planning to schedule briefings soon in order to bring attention to the fact that entitlement cuts will likely come from this commission, which could end up being even more destructive to our slowly recovering economy. What we need to be doing right now is putting people to work, not taking away government support.
I have also been able to work these past couple of weeks on the proposed Resolution Copper Mine that mining multinationals Rio Tinto and BHP Billiton are trying to create in the Tonto National Forest. Rep. Grijalva is opposed to the mine, and as Chair for the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests and Public Lands, he has asked me to provide him with background information on the issue to assist in the hearings that will be forthcoming. It is great to continue the research and advocacy on mining that I began during my coursework at Antioch. My Advocacy Clinic projects and our Environmental Justice field studies trip prepared me well to take on this challenge.
I will provide more details on life in DC and on Capitol Hill in my next report!
September 2, 2010
So I have now been in DC for about three and a half months. It is still hot and humid, just to let you know. August has been slow as the Congress is in recess and the members are working in their districts. I have continued to update the CPC website, always looking for new op-eds by CPC members and articles for “CPC in the News.” I have also drafted several items for the Caucus, including talking points for a jobs press conference, press releases, CPC Budget Principles, and a letter to President Obama recommending Elizabeth Warren to serve as Director of the Bureau of Consumer Financial Protection.
The big issue that has been my continued interest for the past couple of months is the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (a.k.a. the Debt Commission). I told you in my last posting that I wrote a one-pager that turned out to be quite helpful at least for one Representative. Well, the co-chairs of the commission, former Senator Alan Simpson and White House Chief of Staff for President Clinton, Erskine Bowles, met with the CPC last month. In preparation for this meeting, I drafted an update to the previous one-pager which had information on what has been happening with the commission in the interim, as well as main points of which the CPC should be aware and possible issues to address with the co-chairs that would affect the CPC mission. I also got to sit in on that meeting, which was really great. I learned a lot about both of the co-chairs and their views, as well as social security, which as you may know, has been a disputed topic in regards to this commission.
Finally, I have been working on an issue that is important to me. Prior to my time here in DC, I worked as a veterinary technician for a total of three years, including all through grad school at Antioch. With my background in veterinary issues, I am hyper-aware of over-the-counter products that are sold claiming that they are “flea and tick treatments” but in actuality are nothing more than organophosphate poisons that have seriously harmed and killed many animals. During a recent visit to the clinic at which I used to work, I witnessed the death of another beautiful animal from one of these “treatments”. He was a beautiful male tabby cat who looked almost exactly like one of my beloved cats. I fell in love with him as soon as he came in the door. Watching him die, despite excellent nursing and medical care, was just an incredibly difficult thing to do.
I returned to DC knowing that I am in a position in which I can try to do something about these “treatments” being sold to unsuspecting consumers. So, I wrote up the beginnings of a bill to ban the use of organophosphates in pet products. The Legislative Assistant in the office who handles animal issues and the Legislative Director both support the bill and feel that it will have the backing necessary to at least get drafted. So, I mostly wrote a bill. It will be controversial, as the companies that make the products won’t want to discontinue making money. But hopefully animal lovers will give it the momentum and support it needs to pass so that helpless animals will no longer be harmed by the products. But even if it isn’t passed or never comes close to getting passed, if it even saves one life from a pet caretaker knowing the danger from hearing about the controversial bill, it will be worth every second I spent working on it and then some.
My time here at the CPC is coming to an end in the next couple of days. This was an incredible experience for which I am incredibly grateful. I was welcomed in this office by its many staff members as well as the Congressman, and I was able to work on interesting and timely issues, as well as issues important to me.