Week Two: Visiting the Hill

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Thursday, June 8, 2017


Lisa McDonald

For this week’s adventure, my mentor Mitch sent me to the hub of capitol life: the Hill.

This isn’t my first time visiting Congress. During my time as an Associate Zone Councilor for the Society of Physics Students, I attended Science-Engineering-Technology Congressional Visit Days (SET CVD) the past two Aprils. However, the purpose for my trip this week differed from those past events. Previously I met with Iowa Congresspeople to advocate for programs that encouraged more STEM majors to teach at the K-12 level. This time, I sat in on congressional committee meetings to hear them negotiate with the directors of various governmental agencies on the fiscal year 2018 budget (FY18).

I spent Tuesday at the Senate and Capitol Visitor Center, and Thursday on the House side. Luckily for me, two of the other interns Riley and Eleanor work at the Senate and House, respectively, so knew exactly where I needed to go. Thus, they got to partake in what I like to call “Take-Your-Intern-To-Work” Day. I’m sure they enjoyed all the puns they got to hear from me during their respective “Take-Your-Intern” days. :)

Tuesday’s schedule

Tuesday morning kicked off with a meeting of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources to consider four nominations. The vote took only 20 minutes, yet three protestors needed to be thrown out by security. One protestor whacked me in the head with his arm as he tried to break free of security’s grasp!

In the afternoon I listened to a congressional briefing by The Center for Innovation Policy at Duke Law on the decline in corporate research. They served free lunch, and Mitch said if you plan strategically you can likely go a month getting all your food from attending these sorts of things.

Thursday’s schedule

Thursday was all about NASA. Let me give you a test: what does NASA stand for? We use the acronym so much it is easy to forget that’s not the agency’s full name. NASA stands for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, and the main point of contention during today’s budget hearings was what NASA’s goal should be. The proposed FY18 budget cuts NASA’s earth science budget a lot while putting more into the planetary research budget. A lot of discussion went into if Congress should uphold this recommendation.


This week wasn’t all work, though. Some of the interns (including myself) headed for a book reading at the East City Bookshop and not only got to meet the two wonderful authors of Vacation Guide to the Solar System but also Lori B. Garver, former NASA deputy administrator under Barack Obama!

Lisa McDonald