Roice Fulton is a young PHA staff member who attended PHA’s Nov. 18 Congressional Luncheon. With his permission, I’m sharing the note he wrote to his parents the following day. I think it offers a fresh look at a great American tradition.
After the lunch, there were a number of one-on-one visits, all with House of Representatives members and staff; these went very smoothly. House visits are pretty straightforward and rapid-fire: you go to the representative’s office, meet either with the Congress Member or his or her health policy assistant, present your case, ask for co-sponsorship of your bill, and he or she says yes/no/we’ll get back to you. More often than not, these meetings yield good results, probably because our case is clear and strong and House Members are responsive to their constituents.
I was originally assigned as support staff for one of the House lobby groups. However, a coworker asked to be included in a group, and so I took on a role of event janitor. I was fine with that, being happy to simply be a part of the day. Despite the custodial assignment, I still decided to wear my nice suit…you know, just in case.
After helping clean up the lunchroom, I started chatting with a coworker, Jess, who mentioned that she had attended a meeting I was unaware of. She told me that before the luncheon, Colleen Connor, a Pennsylvania patient and her family met with one of their state’s senators, Bob Casey, who indicated support for our bill.
Gavin [our lobbyist] writes to say that Sen. Casey's staff intends to drop our bill in the Senate today. With luck, I'll have a bill number to announce at the staff meeting tomorrow.
I soon found out that he was coming to support a second meeting, to be held at 4pm with the senior Pennsylvania senator, Arlen Specter.
Jess was telling me all this because she was looking for a photographer. I mentioned offhand that I had a camera.
The patient, her supporters, Dr. Taichman, Jess and myself headed for the Senate offices, winding up in Sen. Specter’s conference room. I wasn’t feeling particularly nervous, since I was pretty much along for the ride. All I had to do was ask for a couple of photos, and I was done…no sweat. But a few minutes after we settled down, a staffer ran in saying that all the Senators were just called over to the Capitol Building, and that if we want to meet with Sen. Specter, we’ll have to go and see him out by the Senate floor.
We were each given clearance badges and shepherded down to the basement of the Senate building, where we were told to take the connecting subway to the Capitol building.
Sen. Specter came off the floor and Colleen, surrounded by a dozen people standing in the corner of a noisy room, spent a few minutes with him talking about the disease. Colleen is impressive and after the conversation, Sen. Specter said that he would take a hard look at the bill.
Glad I wore my nice suit.