A Day in the Life: Staff Assistant on Capitol Hill

8:30 a.m. Come in to open up the office. Since you are the first person a visitor sees upon entering the office, it is your responsibility to ensure that the reception area is neatly kept and that there are plenty of brochures about things to do in Washington, DC.

8:40 a.m. Catch up on the latest news by reading the Washington Post, Roll Call (the newspaper of Capitol Hill), and your home town papers on-line.

9:30 a.m. Open and sort the mail. It is amazing how many people take the time to write to their Congressman. As you read each incoming letter, you must determine which Legislative Assistant or Legislative Correspondent is responsible for answering the correspondence. Reading the mail gives you a chance to learn about the issues Congress is considering.

10:30 a.m. Welcome a family from the Member's district visiting Washington with their three children. You have already arranged a tour of the Capitol with one of the office staff.

11:30 a.m. Answer yet another call from a constituent expressing his opposition to a bill pending before Congress. This is the tenth call you have received today on the same topic, all before lunch. One of the interests groups must be ginning up a strong grassroots operation to defeat this bill!

12:30 p.m. Finally, time for lunch. Find one of the interns to cover the front desk so that you can slip away for 45 minutes. Head down to the Rayburn Cafeteria with two other office mates to grab a quick bite and gossip about the latest scandal stirring in Washington.

1:15 p.m. The bells signal the first vote of the day. Activity in the office picks up as the Member prepares to go to the floor.

2:00 p.m. Research an issue for one of the Legislative Assistants. Request several documents from the Congressional Research Service (CRS).

3:30 p.m. The strange person who claims that the CIA implanted a chip in his brain and is monitoring his thoughts calls yet again asking to speak to the Congressman. You tell him that your boss is not available, but that you will be sure to pass along the message.

4:00 p.m. Head down to the basement of the Capitol Building to pick up flags that have been flown over the U.S. Capitol to send to constituents that have requested them. The tunnels under the Capitol are mazelike -- you are always surprised when you don't get lost.

5:00 p.m. Time to call it a day, and head out to happy hour. Members' offices are required to pay overtime to all "non-exempt" employees, including staff assistants, so unless there's something pressing, you can only work an eight-hour day.