Congratulations, you just got elected to Congress! Now what?

Our series, Twenty for 2020, digs into the real experiences of freshmen Democrats as they navigate their first term in the House—and all the ups and downs that come with it.

Beyond the press conferences and the town halls, we rarely get to see what working in Congress is really like. And, as we’ve found, it can be a grind: early mornings at constituent breakfasts and committee meetings; votes and meetings with staff to figure out what position you’ll take on bills and what you might need be able to accomplish; and strong arming your way through tough conversations as you try to make a name for yourself as the new kid on the block.

Most stories we read on Congress focus heavily on partisan divides or gridlocked bills. And lots of things —the things often deemed as too small to be newsworthy—never make the headlines. It may be money to make public transportation safer, or a letter to nudge a federal agency to look into abusive companies raising rents, or legislation that sets up better insurance coverage for moms and babies. 

We don’t hear about these things— in part because of the priorities of national news outlets and in part due to the decline of local news. A 2016 Pew Research Center analysis found 21 states lack a local newspaper reporter based in Washington.

People deserve to know about the work being done for or against their interests, even if it begins in a subcommittee hearing with no reporters in attendance. A 2019 study from the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center makes it clear how much Americans struggle to understand what Congress does: just 39% of Americans could name all three branches of government, and a quarter said they didn’t know which party had the majority in the House or Senate.

We’re here to fill that void, following twenty freshman Democrats and their triumphs, struggles, and the things that don’t make the national news but have an effect on the lives of their constituents.