Capitol Hill staffers are “the glue that holds” Congress together, according to Mark Strand, author of Surviving Inside Congress, a guide to working on Capitol Hill. Strand and his co-authors, Michael Johnson and Jerome Climer, have almost 60 years of government experience between them. They decided to use that knowledge to write a how-to manual on understanding Congress.
Their book offers tips from who does what job and how the appropriations process works to how to navigate the political process. “It’s a great tool for anyone who wants to know Congress better,” Strand said.
Strand, a former chief of staff to ex-Sen. Jim Talent (R-Mo.), now heads the Congressional Institute, a Republican think tank. He took some time to talk to The Hill about why he and his co-authors decided to write the book and what people can learn from it.
Q: Why write this book?
Strand: I worked in Congress for 23 years and so did both my colleagues. You see enough to want to give something back and make the institution better.
Q: Did you write the book based on your own experiences, or did you talk to other staffers?
Strand: Mostly our own experiences. But we also talked to people we knew.
Q: Who was your target audience?
Strand: New staff. We’re trying to give them a head start with the basic information. … I’m trying to give them a foundation for working on the Hill.
Q: And what’s the most important thing they should take from this book?
Strand: The most important thing … is that you’re not expected to know everything. The best thing you can do is keep learning. The best staffers are always learning. … When I was a chief of staff, I realized one of the difficult things was how to train staff. … When people start they are thrown into the frying pan, and I wanted to come up with a way to help them.