I took a short break from my writing during Thanksgiving, as that week was extremely short due to everyone travelling home for the holidays. Coming back from a very long weekend, however, the Congress started working full steam ahead. House Democrats are busy forming their leadership, with Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi now officially being nominated for the Speaker of the House and House Republicans are trying to realize as much of their agenda as possible before becoming the minority in the 116th Congress. Next to that, the hallways are full of furniture as previous members are moving out and new members-elect are moving in. Funny enough, this time when you see someone being lost in the hallways, they might actually be a new Congresswoman or Congressman elect.
This past week was therefore busy in terms of work, and remarkable on many levels. Since we are back in session after quite some time, I had the opportunity to work on and attend a hearing by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs on the current situation in Syria. I was responsible in helping the legislative staff read the witness statements and prepare the material for the hearing. For someone interested in foreign policy, this is the place to be. It provides direct insight into the current implementation of US foreign policies, as the committee deals with bills and issues and oversees the work of agencies and programs in the realm of US foreign affairs.
In the hearing, I got to hear testimony from the Honorable James F. Jeffrey, the Special Representative for Syria Engagement and Robert Jenkins, Deputy Assistant Administrator for US Agency for International Development, two experts most intimately involved in the US’ Syria policy. Both talked about the current power of ISIS and the dynamics between actors involved in Syria, especially Russia and Iran, reaffirming the need for US presence, specifically in terms of humanitarian aid. By attending the hearing, I was able to make sense of why such a dialogue is crucial for a successful long-term policy approach.
I also had the opportunity to “branch out” and visit the US Supreme Court (SCOTUS) during oral arguments. I was able to sit in on the arguments, which is when the Justices can directly ask the attorneys representing a particular case questions and the attorneys can highlight arguments they consider crucial for their case. The case I sat in on was Timbs vs. Indiana, but the details of it are far too complex for me to accurately describe in this short format. Experiencing the dynamics and intensity of the discourse between the Justices and attorneys, however, was fascinating and gave me a more intricate understanding of the role of SCOTUS in the system of checks and balances.
This week I was able to see the US model of the separation of powers in practice and with that get another step closer towards a more nuanced understanding of the American political system. As my internship is slowly coming to end, it is, at the same time, getting easier and harder to write these blog posts. Easier, because the work in the House of Representatives has given me specific analytical tools to talk about current events and developments. And harder, because there are now many more things I notice and pay attention to in American politics.