Despite the U.S. House of Representatives becoming increasingly diverse, only 13.7% of senior House staffers are people of color, compared with 38% of the country as a whole. Organizations like Staff Up Congress, an initiative from the NALEO Educational Fund and the Joint Center, are seeking to close the gap. In this series, we profile young women participating in Staff Up.
Name: Eliza Ramirez
Originally from: Anaheim, CA
Works as: Senior legislative assistant for Rep. Michael Capuano, MA-7, a Democrat. Since Rep. Capuano is leaving Congress at the end of the year — he was unseated by Ayanna Pressley — Ramirez is trying to figure out her next steps.
Bio: Ramirez is a passionate advocate for women of color on Capitol Hill. She serves as vice chair of the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute Alumni Association, is a founder of the Latinas in the House of Representatives Group, and is a former president of the Women’s Congressional Staff Association.
8:30 a.m. — Leave my apartment and begin my 15-minute walk to the Longworth House Office Building. During the walk I listen to James Brown, and go through my daily morning-walk routine: Practice my five minutes of gratitude and goals that need to be accomplished that day.
9:15 a.m. — Scroll through unread emails and today’s Politico and Roll Call headlines.
10 a.m. — Meet with a chief of staff from Democratic House Leadership to discuss strategy about how to break into a senior position on Capitol Hill. Meeting was a success, as I secured five new chief of staff contacts. I’ve been preparing for months on how to be a legislative director. I was accepted into the Staff Up Congress Legislative Academy, a professional development initiative from NALEO Educational Fund and the Joint Center that helps junior Hill staff members of color step into more senior roles.
10:30 a.m. — Host a meeting with congressional staffers from the Sudan and South Sudan Caucus to discuss next steps for the 116th Congress. Given Rep. Capuano's leadership with that caucus, I have played a pivotal role in ensuring the countries have humanitarian assistance and that peacekeeping efforts have improved. The relationships I’ve built on and off the Hill in order to advance this effort have ranged from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Leadership, United Nations, and prominent international organizations.
As a legislative assistant, I help Rep. Capuano accomplish his legislative goals by drafting legislation, amendments, talking points for the floor and committee hearings, letters, and more. Concurrently, I convene with stakeholders in both Washington, D.C., and at the district level to understand and address their concerns, and advance common goals.
Policy-making is not objective; it is influenced by the staffers who write it, which is why we will continue to ensure that all communities are represented in the halls of Congress.
11:45 a.m. — Grab coffee with a staff director for a Democratic House committee to discuss potential future opportunities. They ended up introducing me to three staffers on that committee.
12:20 p.m. — I message a mentor of mine to ask for writing samples as I begin prepping for a legislative director interview. I’ve been working on forming new relationships on and off Capitol Hill, both through Staff Up Congress and by reaching out to colleagues.
12:30 p.m. — Lunch (as always) at my desk while cold-emailing 20 Senate and House senior staffers. (By the end of the day, 12 of them were willing to meet with me.) I try to focus on things I can control. In D.C., you have to be bold or else opportunities will slip past you, so reaching out to as many people as possible can only help position you on a better career path.
1:30 p.m. — Meet with the director of the House Diversity Initiative for a mock interview.
2:30 p.m. — On the phone with the Department of Health and Human Services to get the latest status regarding reunification of families at the border.
4 p.m. — Meet with the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to discuss which Orange County, CA, campaign race I will help out with for a month.
6:30 p.m. — I join a Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) dinner and discussion; the topic is on U.S. policy toward South Asia. I was accepted into a one-year CFR fellowship that consists of monthly in-depth dinner discussions with policy experts on various international topics.
8:30 a.m. — On a conference call to discuss next year’s agenda for the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute Alumni Association. The Association fosters a culture of leadership, community, and continuing investment in advancing opportunities for the development of future Hispanic leaders. I serve as vice president.
10:45 a.m. — Meet with a Roll Call reporter to discuss the importance of congressional staffers working on campaigns. I emphasize that the stakes are too high for people to just sit on their hands.
3 p.m. — Today is the last workshop offered by the Staff Up Congress Legislative Academy. The program has been instrumental in helping with the steps I need to take in order to advance my political career, such as building relationships early on with Leadership offices, press, and campaign offices.
3:30 p.m. — Head to our afternoon session. Today, we’re hearing from committee staff and chiefs of staff on how to effectively work with House and Senate committees.
3:45 p.m. — The panel begins discussing how to inform a committee about your Congressmember’s priorities and how to work with committee staff to introduce a bill.
4:10 p.m. — An essential role as legislative director is to craft and execute a short- and long-term legislative agenda for the member of Congress, particularly within the member’s committee issues.
4:45 p.m. — Seasoned committee staffers share their perspectives on how their committees operate and best practices on how to work effectively with them; this includes how to staff your boss for a hearing and markup. The panel also addressed how legislative staff can work with committee staff to advance their member's policy priorities if the member is not part of that committee.
5 p.m. — As a legislative director, I’d be responsible for overseeing the progression of bills with which the member is involved as they move from committee to the floor.
5:30 p.m. — It’s been a heartening experience knowing that the group is deeply committed to diversifying Capitol Hill. All of us believe that policy-making is not objective; it is influenced by the staffers who write it, which is why we will continue to ensure that all communities are represented in the halls of Congress. Without diverse staffers who understand the issues facing our nation’s underrepresented populations, we can’t possibly create policies that address Americans' concerns.
6:30 p.m. — After work, I head out to a Congressional candidate fundraiser. Fundraiser events are a strategic way to engage with candidates and other important players in the political circle, especially when looking to advance on the Hill.
7:30 p.m. — Phone bank at the DCCC. This is an excellent way to put your name on people’s radar.
8:45 p.m. — Head home.
9 p.m. — Play with my puppies, Blanquita and Bear. After, I continue reading the book The Art of War and pass out on my bed.