Looking back at the Hill


  • Eric Butler


When I came to Washington, I emerged from a world of flannel shirts and sneakers to one of suits and ties and from beat-up cars (perhaps this was just a New England phenomenon) to late model vehicles (with air conditioning, of course) that are always clean. The transition from talks of calibration curves and “clean room” techniques to community right-to-know laws and mandatory Superfund cleanup standards was not always straightforward, but it was nearly always fun and very educational.

The people here are enthusiastic and hardworking, and their work and rewards are a bit different than those in academe. Most staff have no idea about the seasonal cycles of nutrients in a temperate zone estuary and may not have heard of the ideal gas laws. They might think that these ideas were conceived in a new piece of legislation and want to become cosponsors. On the other hand, before coming to Washington, I had no idea what the legislative process was all about. I am still wet behind the ears in that regard, but I do find it mildly amusing and somewhat appropriate that all new House bills start by being dropped into a receptacle on the floor of the House called a hopper.