OutPower

Today’s the Big Day – Janiah Miller

OUT ON THE HILL is the official blog of the Victory Congressional Interns. Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of LGBTQ Victory Institute. Learn more about the internship at victoryinstitute.org/vci

Janiah Miller, Victory Congressional Intern, poses in front of the Stonewall Inn

Wow. I don’t even know where to begin. A lot has happened in these past few weeks; I went to the House floor and New York City for the first time. They say it’s hard to capture a moment in history or a “high” moment when you are living it. I’ll aim to do the best I can.

I woke up that Monday feeling very frantic to the feeling of, “Today is the big day.” In this case, the big day was the markup of the 2020 House Appropriations Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Bill. Although I didn’t work on the bill, I felt like I was a part of the team because I had been included in staff meetings and had the opportunity to go to the full committee mark-up. The staffers in our office had been waiting for this moment for six months.

Even though I’m just an intern, carrying files and riding the Capitol train to get the floor felt powerful. Not to mention, most staffers don’t get to go on the floor for a live bill their entire career on Capitol Hill. It was a privilege to be there and live in that moment.

On the big day, our team arrived at the “Speaker’s Waiting Room” outside of the House floor. Once you get there, you turn in your staff badge to get a floor pass. While I was there, I learned that wasn’t a women’s bathroom for members until Speaker Pelosi became the Speaker of the House. Congress fought her on it, saying it was a waste of money, but they eventually installed one.

During the review process, the en bloc can feel long, especially if you don’t understand everything that they are talking about. There were over 80 amendments in the bill’s en bloc. Two amendments particularly caught my attention; they were about housing rights for transgender folx. During the en bloc, the republicans were being transphobic in how they discussed the amendments. That was really hard to listen to since there are transgender and non-binary folx in our intern cohort and these bills directly impact them.

The most exciting moment of the day was being able to see the members vote. The members sit amongst the staffers on the floor. You just feel the power and the energy within the room (I was just two seats away from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez!).

I was sitting with my subcommittee on the democratic side of the house. Looking over at the republican side, the lack of diversity was apparent. The democratic side felt more like a reflection of America. Despite seeing my favorite representatives on the floor, I felt sad. I wanted there to be more of them. There is still much work to be done to get more women in office, particularly women of color. The longer I sat there, the more I envisioned being there one day as a member of Congress.

The end of my week was exciting in a different way. This was my first year not going to Cincinnati Pride, the only pride I have ever been to. Since I’m in DC, I went to Capital Pride about a month ago. DC pride was honestly pretty overwhelming since it’s a large parade without much space to gather. In Cincinnati, there is a mix of booths from corporations, local businesses, and nonprofits sharing information with the community. New York City’s World Pride felt more similar to Cincinnati’s pride. Although the space was overwhelming at times, it felt like community. I was full of pride in this space.