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What It Is Like to Work in the Legislature in Washington, D.C.

The U.S Capitol Complex is a major city employer, architectural landmark, tourist destination, and historical site in Washington, D.C. Most people recognize the U.S. Capitol because of its distinctive dome, but the daily legislative work is conducted in the nearby House and Senate office buildings, which are connected by a labyrinth of subterranean tunnels. There’s even a small subway system!

As in any organization, office space denotes power. Senators enjoy nicer offices than their counterparts in the House. Veteran legislators with high-profile committee positions usually have larger and more luxurious quarters than the rank and file. Outgoing members are literally moved to the basement (officially the Departing Member Services Center).

Watch out: Legend holds that a Demon Cat roams the lower reaches of the Capitol at night, sightings of which portend national tragedies or presidential transitions.

Staffers in member offices and on committees do the bulk of the actual work in Congress, especially because members are often back in their home districts or out fundraising.

Competition for these jobs is fierce, space is limited, and pay is relatively low. Job security is also wanting. But there are few easier ways for ambitious individuals to take part in the high-level policymaking process at an early age, and experience working on the Hill can be generously rewarded in the private sector.

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