Despite the fact that this person represents you, chances are you do not know your Congressperson. Even if you know their name, you probably have no idea what they do all day. When I sat down with my Congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici at her office in Washington DC. I began to learn a bit more about her stance on the political issue of gun safety in America. But it wasn’t until I conducted a phone interview with her a few weeks later that I began to understand what it is she does all day.
“One thing I really like about the job is it is so different every day. There are so many issues to learn about but also so many people to meet and hear from,” Bonamici says.
Whether it be meeting with businesses to understand what she can do to help her constituents or meeting with constituents or voting on legislation, Bonamici talks about the day to day variety of the job. When serving the people Congress, there is a line that must be toed between knowing your district and voting according to what your voters think as being the “right way to vote” and also asking yourself and voting according to your own conscience. This can be seen in the example of the Trans Pacific Partnership which will be voted on by Bonamici in a couple of weeks.The TPP is a trade agreement among 12 countries in the Pacific rim that deals with economic growth and global partnership. Bonamici has not yet publicly told which way she will vote but she did talk with me about what goes into choosing what side you are on in given issue.
“[I must] get to know the district that I represent and know what trade does for this district but also learn about what it means to have a trade agreement done right. We live in the northwest in an area that benefits greatly from exports and have a lot of companies here that have the potential to grow and create more jobs. I [also] certainly wouldn’t want to do anything that sends more job overseas. I am looking for a trade agreement that is about exporting goods and not exporting jobs.”
Aside from voting, a major duty of a Congresswoman is being able to listen to people’s problems and bring them to light so others can help fix these issues. For example, Bonamici recently spoke to Portland Community College about the importance of safety from sexual assault on school campuses. This comes a year after records of a woman who said she was raped at the University of Oregon were accessed by the school in the course of defending itself against a lawsuit,” the Oregonian tells us.
“I’m concerned about making sure that our campuses are safe for students. I am a mom as well as a policy maker. College is a time when students should be learning in a safe and supportive environment. Unfortunately, too many students experience sexual assaults. I have been working on policy to [ensure] that people who work in the support programs know how to address these issues and that [victim’s] records are being kept private.”
No matter how successful you are as a policy maker, there is a theory that many people believe to be true: it is impossible to work across the aisle. The media portrays a government that is in constant gridlock and fails to work together or get anything done. Bonamici finds this to be an incorrect representation The US Congress.
“I always work across the aisle. I serve in the minority but I have to always build relationships and find common ground. I really feel that those opportunities are there despite the political climate. We don’t get along but if people really know how often we form relationships and work together they would be surprised because what they see in the media.”
Bonomicici credits some of her other skills as being reasons why she is able to work with members of the other party so well.
“I think everyone wants the same thing they just have very different ideas about how we get there. I use my mom skills. Be nice to people, be patient, clean up your mess, if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything. It takes a little extra time to build those relationships but it is really worth it.”