Walking in through the grand lobby of the Russell Senate Office Building, the gravity of government began to settle in, and legislation and health policy reform began to feel as far away as the opulent rotunda roof. However, as the legislative correspondent for Senator David Perdue’s office began to explain the legislative process during the first meeting of the day, it became apparent that constituents have much more access to government than it may seem. The correspondent explained that it is her job to speak with constituents and help to draft their ideas into legislation. These drafts are passed along to the Senator, they gather support, and then they are taken to the floor. Sometimes, if the issue is not expected to be controversial, the bills can be passed unanimously before they even reach the floor. Though the process is complicated, and oftentimes lengthy, it was amazing to learn that it is truly possible for advocates to effect change.
Through the first meeting with Senator Perdue’s office, the group discussed Medicare reform, as they learned that congress is unsure that the trust will be able to continue beyond 2022. They also discussed how Senator Perdue is working to create change in the healthcare realm by working to pass legislation that both parties can agree on, rather than attacking polarizing, and impassable issues. These bipartisan issues include minimizing surprise billing, decreasing the cost of healthcare, especially pharmaceuticals, increasing transparency, and ensuring the consumer’s ability to “shop around” to choose their care.
The next meeting the group had was with the Senior Policy Advisor for Congressman John Lewis. The group learned about the congressman’s rich history as a champion for civil rights, and viewed amazing photos of him being arrested while standing up for his beliefs. Congressman Lewis is heavily interested in minority rights. His Senior Policy Advisor told us that he is guided by the notion that his ancestors were freed 100 years before he was marching in the streets for rights. He hopes to make political change that will be forward thinking enough to last for 100 years. Congressman Lewis also believes that congress will have many chances to fix Medicare, but the people who are utilizing it today only have one chance for it to work for them, so it is critical that advances be made now. Other healthcare priorities in Congressman Lewis’ office include R01 NIH research grants and HIV/AIDS.
The group’s final meeting of the day was with a Legislative Assistant for Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. She was the first registered nurse elected to congress. She became interested in politics because of her strong passion for public service. She prioritizes access to care and mental health because of her history of a mental health nurse.
The group finished the day at the Library of Congress. The floor of the lobby of the library is engraved with every zodiac sign, and the center is a compass. This symbolizes that everyone is welcome in the library. The steps are carved with images of cherubs representing different job fields, which symbolizes that there are books in the library for every interest. This reminded the group of the way that congress is full of many different interests, many different priorities, and many different people. The legislative process is complicated, and encompasses many different aspects. The constant of the day was the way that all of the legislative staffers spoke highly of nurses, and encouraged the group to continue advocating. The staffers assured the group that their opinions would be taken seriously, and that they would be regarded highly in the political space.