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Fellow: Ariel Higuchi
Member: Representative Ami Bera (CA-7)
Tasks in Member’s Office
Congressman Ami Bera is the Vice Chair of the House Science, Space, and Technology (SST) Committee and the Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia, the Pacific, and Nonproliferation (APNP). The Chair of a committee or subcommittee, in coordination with their staff, determines how the committee will be run, i.e., when the committee will mark up a bill, when they will have hearings, who the witnesses will be, etc. As a Legislative Fellow in the office, I have worked with the Legislative Director and Committee Staff on the Congressman’s SST and APNP committee work. This includes doing research on a variety of topics; writing speeches, questions, and memos; evaluating issues important to the Congressman and his district; and taking and organizing meetings with constituents, federal agencies, and industry stakeholders.
I’ve most enjoyed the speech writing, while I’ve learned the most from taking meetings. Years ago, I competed in speech and debate and was ranked in the top 40 original orators in the nation. I really enjoyed the process of writing and giving speeches but did not know at the time that some people actually wrote speeches as a profession. Consequently, it’s been fun to tap back into an old hobby. On the other hand, I’ve learned the most from taking meetings. Before I moved to DC, I was an Advocacy Chair for an organization that focused on affordable housing and public transit at the state level. Being on the receiving end, the very types of advocacy meetings that I used to plan have given me the tools to understand how to become a better advocate.
Favorite memories on the Hill
One of my favorite memories as a staffer was the opportunity to go see a Northrop Grumman rocket launch to the International Space Station from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. As the staffer covering the space issues for our office, including the Congressman’s priorities as it relates to NASA Authorization, it was amazing to see the fruits of previous work on space exploration in person. Last year, as a Scoville Fellow at the Brookings Institution covering nuclear weapons issues, I worked on space matters from a defense perspective. Now as a staffer, I’ve broadened my understanding of space which has been very exciting and eye-opening!
Morning- What I love most about the Hill is every day is different. But generally, I arrive to work around 9 a.m., read the news, and answer emails. Some days, I may attend relevant briefings by advocacy organizations, academic institutions, think tanks, or the Congressional Research Service. Additionally, I may have meetings with staffers from my office or with staffers from the committees that I work with.
Afternoon- If we have a committee hearing or mark up, I’ll staff the Congressman and follow up on any issues he’s interested in. Some days, I’ll have meetings with constituents or industry stakeholders who are interested in briefing the Congressman’s staff on their respective priorities. During a recess week, I’ll meet with folks from on and off the Hill for coffees. At the end of a long day or week, my favorite part of the afternoon is when my coworkers and I take a couple of minutes to laugh about anything: a staffer’s new puppy, stories about a staffer’s kid, a recent trip, or a dinner cooked gone wrong. My office is filled with smart people who know how to laugh, and I deeply appreciate that.
Evening- Evenings can be busy. When members are in DC, there are receptions on the Hill on any policy topic one could imagine. Some evenings I go to those receptions; other evenings I go to dinner briefings organized by various institutions. I also love various sports (soccer, rugby, frisbee) so if I don’t get to the gym in the morning, I’ll go in the evenings. And when evenings are not busy, I’ll chill on my own or meet with friends!