From the Senate to the Supreme Court to handcuffs and a gun, what started out as a typical day on Capitol Hill turned into a memorable one.
After a few days in DC’s sweltering heat, absorbing the Smithsonian museums, watching millions of dollars being printed, riding bicycles around the monuments, and even pretending to be spies, my family of four (two teenage kids, my husband and I) were ready to experience Capitol Hill.
We walked from Union Station to the Hill with anticipation. Intent on showing my children where their congressmen worked, I headed our family toward the Russell Senate Office Building where our senator, John Kerry, has his office. The morning was cool but sunny, and all around us young men and women dressed in black and pumps or ties walked briskly to work. Near the Russell Building a line was forming, and being tourists, we jumped into line before fully understanding what we were in line for.
The woman sitting under a tent asked us if we’d like tickets. Tickets to what? My husband asked. Free tickets to Elena Kagan’s Supreme Court Justice confirmation hearing, she answered. While my husband ran across the street to Kerry’s office to leave our cameras, water bottles, pens and other items which were not allowed into the hearing, the kids and I waited in line.
Eventually we followed 20 others (most likely interns, their dress contrasted sharply with our tourist apparel) to the Hart Senate building. One by one we passed through security and into the quiet building where we formed another line outside the hearing room’s door. Bright lights, cameras and microphones filled the area. Men and women with press badges scurried around, tilting, adjusting and talking, as we waited silently to enter the room.
The large wooden door opened, and we entered, single file, and sat in chairs in the back of the room. Immediately in front of us, media personnel filled perpendicular tables with lap tops and head phones, talking, typing, looking official but not necessarily as if they were paying attention. C-Span monitors lined the walls, and on the opposite side of the room, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary sat elevated. There was Senator Diane Feinstein in a red suit and Senator Orrin Hatch. I could see Senator Al Franken asking the questions, and if I leaned sideways and sat up straight, I could see Elena Kagan beyond the reporters in front of me. It was easier to watch the interaction on the monitors but exciting to see the people with my own eyes. When the Committee took a break, my daughter caught a glimpse of herself on one of the monitors, and we watched interviews taking place just outside the door. A few minutes later, we were ushered out to make room for another group.