Kids on the Hill

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) brought her daughter to work to teach her about lawmaking, but the senator had to offer a life lesson first: Be prepared.
Landrieu’s 12-year-old daughter, Mary Shannon Snellings, used a Q-and-A period with her mom and other lawmakers during last week’s Take Our Sons and Daughters to Work Day events on Capitol Hill to ask the most urgent question on her mind.

“Do you have a Band-Aid?” Snellings asked her mom as other parents laughed knowingly.

Landrieu smiled and said, “I knew those shoes were going to give you trouble.”

With a newly applied bandage covering her blistered foot, Snellings limped along as Landrieu’s staff led a group of 16 children, mostly from the senator’s home state of Louisiana, to her hideaway in the Capitol basement. There, they met Capitol Police Officer Tom Perrell and his 7-year-old bomb-sniffing German Shepherd, Nina. The kids took off their shoes and sat in a semicircle playing ball with the dog.

Landrieu offered the kids a day on Capitol Hill that would be the envy of most adults. She introduced them to Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts and hosted lunch for them on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) balcony. Landrieu, the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee chairwoman, also let them question her committee staff in a mock hearing.

Committee staffers represented imagined businesses and subjected themselves to the children’s pointed grilling.

“This is for the one who makes stuffed animals,” said 10-year-old Dominique Cravins, the daughter of the committee’s staff director, Donald Cravins.

“Why did you pick such a lame topic to use for your own business?”

Onlookers laughed while the staffer stumbled through a defense.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), who met with the Louisiana kids earlier in the day, said she wished one of her three grown daughters could have made it to Capitol Hill for the day, but  she was thrilled to see so many young people eager to learn about Congress.

“I think the day gives kids an interest and appreciation for government and what their parents do,” she told The Hill. “Sometimes as kids, we don’t understand how important our parents’ jobs are. And I also think it’s important to get kids engaged in our democracy thoroughly, and this is an opportunity to do that.”

Predictably, one of the day’s stars was the Capitol Police dog.

After the hearing, Cravins softened her line of questioning to ask Perrell about Nina.

“Even though Nina is a police dog, does she still get to do normal dog things?” she said.

Perrell assured her that Nina did. She has tons of chew toys and loves to play catch, he said.