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Congressional LeadersA Gallup poll taken before the government shutdown of 2018-19 found American’s approval rating of congressional leaders’ job performance at 18%. More recent polls show ratings have improved but remain low, with an average of 24.2% of people approving of Congress, according to Real Clear Politics. Government shutdowns and highly publicized filibusters highlight the challenge of passing bills and contribute to these low approval ratings. In fact, in 2016, after a House of Representatives sit-in over gun control measures, political analyst Larry Jacobs told a Minnesota local CBS affiliate that more than 90% of bills die in Senate or House committees.

However, as USHistory.org notes, passing bills is meant to be difficult with the checks and balances system in place. What’s more, bills do get introduced constantly. For instance, each of the 200 senators and 435 representatives in Congress is involved with at least a few of the hundreds of bills introduced throughout any given leaders’ tenure. Here are five leaders who have been especially active in supporting bills directly impacting the fight against global poverty.

5 Congressional Leaders Tackling Global Poverty Issues

  1. Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). Susan Collins has been a senator since 1997.  She directly sponsored 18 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 374. Bills she introduced include the Clean Cookstoves and Fuels Support Act, which she introduced in various forms in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2015. These bills encourage the U.S. to better help advance an international initiative to make clean cooking accessible to millions of people worldwide. Collins also introduced the Reach Every Mother and Child Acts of 2015, 2017, and 2019—which urge the president to create a five-year strategy to, as the bill states, help end “preventable child and maternal deaths globally by 2030.”
  2. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ). A Senator since 1993, Robert Menendez has sponsored 178 and co-sponsored 650 international affairs bills. Menendez’s sponsored bills include the Ebola Eradication Act of 2019, which passed in the Senate in September 2019, the End Tuberculosis Now Act of 2019, which is still under Senate consideration, and the Venezuela Humanitarian Relief, Reconstruction, and Rule of Law Act of 2018.
  3. Representative Lois Frankel (D-Fl). Lois Frankel has been in Congress since 2013. She’s sponsored 12 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 200 with a focus on women’s rights issues abroad. For example, one bill she introduced herself is the Women and Countering Violent Extremism Act of 2019, which authorizes aid to women’s groups abroad that address terrorism-related issues. Frankel also introduced the Keeping Girls in School Act, a bill improving access to education for young girls worldwide. Frankel introduced the initial version in 2018 and passed the new 2019 version in the House in January 2020.
  4. Representative Christopher Smith (R-NJ). Christopher Smith has been in Congress since 1981. In that time, he’s sponsored 287 international affairs-related bills and co-sponsored an additional 1,208. One bill he introduced is the End Neglected Tropical Diseases Act, which directs the U.S. to help treat and eliminate under-the-radar tropical diseases to improve lives in at-risk regions. The bill passed in the House in December and is under review by a Senate committee. Another bill he introduced is the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act of 2018, which extends the programs of the Global Food Security Act of 2016. Smith’s bill was a sibling to a Senate bill that passed through both legislatures first, becoming law in October 2018.
  5. Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY). A Congressman since 1989, Eliot Engel has personally introduced 150 bills addressing international affairs issues and co-sponsored an additional 1,312. One bill he introduced is the Venezuela Humanitarian Assistance and Defense of Democratic Governance Act of 2017, which calls for the U.S. to assist Venezuela amid its growing humanitarian crisis. The bill passed in the House in December 2017 and is under Senate review. Engel also introduced the Global Fragility Act to “establish the interagency Global Fragility Initiative to stabilize conflict-affected areas and prevent violence globally.” This act passed in the House in May 2019 and is under review by the Senate.

These five congressional leaders have worked directly on hundreds of bills addressing issues of global poverty. The examples above are only a snapshot of their individual contributions. These five leaders have had a total of 30 sponsored bills in the international affairs category become law; the process of introducing and passing bills never ends. The upcoming election will determine whether these leaders will continue to build on their legacies or cede their place to new leaders eager to make a mark on the legislative process.

– Amanda Ostuni
Photo: Flickr

how to work in congress
Wondering how to get a job working for Congress? We’ve demystified the process and distilled it into 10 possible paths to take.

10 Tips to Get a Job Working for Congress

  1. Networking: Networking is undoubtedly the most important factor when searching for a job in Congress. According to the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF), congressional offices receive thousands of resumes per month, so it is crucial that an applicant is able to stand out from the rest of the pile. The best way to ensure your resume is carefully considered is by knowing a staffer who can make recommendations to the congressional leader. Thus, landing a job on Capitol Hill is largely about connecting with the right people and mobilizing your networks.
  2. Create a killer resume: The hiring process for congressional interns and staff workers begins with a list of resumes organized from top to bottom, Roll Call explains. Having a strong resume is a key component in the hiring process. When writing a resume, Career Casts advises, “you need to create a resume tailored to your customers: the people in a position to hire you.” In other words, talk about relevant experiences and capabilities that could benefit the congressional leaders. Working for The Borgen Project, for instance, would be an applicable and useful experience to include.
  3. Start early on: Reach out not only to congressional leaders, but to potential candidates as well. Former intern Aaron Marquis notes that, “you should keep an eye out on rising political candidates. Network with these candidates early on to land a job later.”
  4. Build a target list: Some important questions to address when building a target list are as follows: “What is your home state? Where have you previously lived? Where did you go to school? Where do you have family?” CMF urges job searchers to use every state and district they’ve spent time in and know something about to help them build a list of target offices. Having an extensive list of congressional leaders as potential employers means having an increased likelihood of landing a job.
  5. Start at the bottom of the hierarchy: There is nothing wrong with fetching coffee for a congressional leader if it means getting a foot in the door. Often times, congressional interns and staff members start their career handling grunt work. CMF claims that, “working on Capitol Hill is all about paying your dues. It doesn’t matter what job you get as long as you have one in the first place. Once you accomplish that, upward mobility can happen very quickly.”
  6. Work for a political campaign: A fun and exciting way to meet congressional candidates is to assist them with their political campaign. Former intern Aaron Marquis says, “political campaigns need effective communicators, writers and strategic minds. You gain valuable contacts in politics whether your candidate wins or loses. If your candidate wins, you can contact the candidate later looking for positions within her office.”
  7. Read newspapers and check websites: Marquis suggests checking the websites for the Senate Placement Office and the House of Representatives’ Office of Human Resources to find available staff positions in Congress. It also wouldn’t hurt to look through “The Hill,” “Roll Call” and “Opportunities in Public Affairs,” three Washington newspapers covering politics, to find available positions in Congress. Notably, each paper has its own classified section with job listings.
  8. Work for retired congressional leaders: Even if the retired leader is no longer working for Congress, they still have all the necessary connections. Marquis recommends asking a retired congressman if he or she needs any help. Although the position may not pay or last very long, it’s possible to obtain Congress positions through the contacts made by working for a retired congressional leader.
  9. Attend events and meet congressmen: According to Marquis, “you should start by attending speaking engagements of the incumbent and new congressional representatives. Speak with council people and lawmakers in your home state to acquire leads that can lead to a job in Congress.” Let the representative know you’re passionate by attending events that he or she speaks at.
  10. Move to Washington, D.C.: CMF suggests moving to Capitol Hill because living in D.C provides the distinct advantage of being able to meet with staffers in person. Face-to-face contact is always preferable and tends to be the most effective.

All things considered, it is vital to be open to various positions when searching for a job working for Congress. Networking with the right people, having the proper credentials and letting congressional leaders know that you are determined could all lead to a job on Capitol Hill.

Megan Hadley

Sources: Congress Foundation, Roll Call, eHow, Career Cast
Photo: Flickr