Last week, as part of my work with the American Bar Association, I had the opportunity to meet with all of Connecticut’s Representatives and Senators in Washington, D.C. Most were available in person, while I met with senior staff in a few offices.
It was a truly rewarding experience. We talked about helping to ensure that legal services funding for the poor remains available and some other items that the ABA has been pushing on a national level both for lawyers and the general public. You can learn more about #ABADay here.
Perhaps this sounds a bit corny, but I was struck by how earnest everyone was. In the private meetings, each indicated a strong desire to get things accomplished and asked for help in doing so. We talked about ways that bar leaders can work with their offices to push bi-partisan legal issues.
Those visits stand in stark contrast to the prevailing wisdom that nothing is happening in Washington or that the legislators are merely interested in their next term in office. In talking with my ABA colleagues who made similar visits to other Congressional offices, most (but unfortunately not all) felt the same way.
Of course, all those positive feelings can’t overcome a simple fact: Congress is getting nothing done when it comes to employment laws. Just think about how Congress and President Bush were able to come to terms on amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act and you realize how paralyzed things have become.
Now, members of Congress hold hearings on things like the one today the changes to DOL’s proposed Persuader Rule, rather than working to pass a bill that might address some of those issues.
The Connecticut delegation isn’t immune to this either. Indeed, some of their proposals stand no likelihood of passage right now as well. Rep. Delauro has proposed the Paycheck Fairness Act which has 193 co-sponsors, but no real support among the Republican leadership. She has also proposed the Healthy Families Act as well, though that bill has 140 co-sponsors. Joe Courtney has sponsored a bill that would amend OSHA by expanding the law’s coverage.
But after my visit to D.C., I left knowing that there are still many people in D.C. who work on bills that receive no publicity but that can have an impact on Americans every day.
If you have the opportunity, I highly recommend visiting your representative or senator in D.C. The offices are very accessible to the public and I have no doubt that they do listen to constituents who visit the offices personally.
My thanks to their offices for listening.