John Hicks is a rising senior at Surry Central High School. He recently spent a week shadowing Rep. Virginia Foxx. Here is a firsthand account of some of his experiences with us here.
Recently, I had the opportunity to shadow Congresswoman Virginia Foxx in Washington. The week I spent there was not only an amazing experience, especially for someone my age, but eye-opening for someone who has only watched Washington through the lens of a regular citizen.
My family was on vacation in Maryland, so I took a train to Union Station and walked to the Rayburn House Office building for my first day. It was only my second time in Washington and the building was a maze but I made it to the Congresswoman’s office. When I got there I was ushered into the private office where Rep. Foxx greeted me and we talked about what I wanted to learn that week.
It was Tuesday, but it was the first day that Congress was in session that week, so at 10 a.m. the staff had a meeting during which they went over the schedule for the week, outbound mailings, legislation that was up during the week, and concluding with a call to the offices in North Carolina to check in on district happenings. After the meeting was over Rep. Foxx provided me with a copy of the daily schedule and advised me that I should read some of the office newspapers before our first daily event.
The first thing we had to do that day was head to a room in the Capitol where Rep. Foxx would address members of the European Parliament, belonging to the leading European Peoples Party. There were many countries represented in the meeting, including France, Portugal, Germany, Italy, Estonia, and more. The two top issues that were discussed were NATO and trade.
Rep. Foxx made clear that she agreed with President Trump that our NATO allies should pay what they have committed to pay, as well as questioned why when the President offered to our allies that he would end tariffs on them if they did the same to us, none of their leaders even responded and instead just moved along to the next topic.
While almost every parliamentarian was respectful you could see some were agitated by the remarks. As soon as that meeting was over we ran out to a waiting car to get to our next meeting which was located at the office of the National Organization of Counties, or NACo. The meeting was on an upcoming bill of the Congresswoman’s, HR 50, which was intended to close loopholes that federal agencies use when imposing rules, or unfunded mandates, on private sector entities.
NACo, as well as the National Governors Association, and many other local government associations were represented in the meeting and voiced strong support of the bill. Following that the Congresswoman and I went back to the Capitol where she made a speech on the floor in honor of a local volunteer, which I watched from the gallery.
The second day I once again arrived on the train, but that morning I was able to eat breakfast with an intern in the Congressional Guest Dining Room, after which the intern and I reported back to the office to start our day.
That morning the Congresswoman had a meeting with the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, Mick Mulvaney, in which a variety of bills and events were discussed. The most memorable moment of the meeting was when, while discussing bills that the House had passed but the Senate had yet to take up, the director looked at me and said “John, the Democrats are not the enemy, they’re the opposition. The Senate is the enemy.”
There were various meetings that day, but by far the highlight was the end of the day when they had votes. After some initial difficulty getting me on the House Floor, we went through the Republican Cloak Room. Once on the floor the Congresswoman explained how the voting worked, on the back of some of the seats they have consoles, the member simply inserts their card in the slot and presses one of three buttons, “Yes, No” or “Present.” The votes then appear on the gallery wall in the front of the chamber. I was allowed to help vote once that day, by pressing the button. Later that day the Congresswoman gave a speech to a group of students in the Longworth Office Building, after which she departed for a party dinner and I left for the night.
Thursday was by far the most memorable day. I arrived in the office and before long there was a meeting with the district FFA representative, following that the Congresswoman, her legislative director and I all literally sprinted to the Peter Strozk hearing, where she was needed for a vote. The biggest event of the day was next. Once we arrived back at the office it was very busy being organized in preparation for a visit by Ivanka Trump.
Press was lined outside the office door by the time Ivanka arrived, she walked in after which I was introduced to her, we talked for a few moments before the staff came in and a meeting on vocational education ensued. After the meeting with Ivanka there were many other meetings with disabled advocates and teachers, following which I returned to the Strozk hearing until it was time for votes.
The final day I reported once again to the Capitol Dining Room where Congresswoman Foxx was having breakfast with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. Immediately following the conclusion of the breakfast, the Congresswoman and I went to the House Chamber, where her bill on unfunded mandates was debated and passed, with unanimous support from the GOP and ten Democrats. Friday, being the last workday ended early, so following the vote my time in Congress was over.
If you spend a week shadowing a representative you quickly learn it’s no easy job. Schedules change every minute, you’re constantly on the move, and your feet hurt. But if you enjoy it, like I did, you’ll want to stay forever.