In an effort to better educate Capitol Hill staffers on the pressing legislative issues in the new Congress, the Congressional Research Service hosted a two-day seminar during recess week featuring the think tank’s top experts in policy areas such as immigration, gun control and tax policy.
The seminar, held Thursday and Friday at the Library of Congress, is new to the CRS’ bevy of programming to help members of Congress and their staffs gain the necessary background information on legislative issues.
According to a fact sheet about the seminar issued at the event, this new event is part of the CRS’ efforts to better reach the Capitol Hill population they are chartered to serve and to help encourage staffers to use the CRS as a resource for policy analysis throughout the legislative session.
About 150 staffers registered for the two-day event, which is modeled after a similar program for new members.
“This program is a new one for CRS. It is modeled on the seminar we just offered in January for newly elected members of the House in Williamsburg,” according to a fact-sheet distributed at the seminar. “[It is] a two-day program that is designed to provide expert briefings on the key issues dominating the legislative agenda in the early months of the session.”
The seminar featured hourlong, informal discussions, wherein staffers could ask CRS experts questions to help them better respond to constituent queries and help them gain the necessary information to advise their bosses on policy solutions and votes.
The topic areas discussed were energy regulation, firearm regulation, budget issues such as the fiscal cliff and debt limit, tax overhaul, campaign finance law, defense policy and national security, immigration, the U.S. relationship with China and challenges in the Middle East as they pertain to Congress.
Staff who attended the event said the seminar was beneficial.
“CRS generally provides the best information for Hill staffers, and when they have events like this, it’s just good to come to be caught up on what policy is out there,” said a legislative assistant in a House office.
For staff that could not attend the CRS seminars, the CRS will arrange one-on-one briefings by their policy experts. The agency also accepts requests for policy research and analysis.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.