There can be many reasons to make contact with a member of Congress. Not only might you want to discuss a policy decision or a specific piece of legislation that is being considered, but there are many other reasons that necessitate contact.
Most members of Congress have a “Constituent Services” section on their web pages for help with government agencies, flag requests, congressional internships, presidential greetings, tours of the Capitol, service academy appointments, and page appointments. For more information, see our “What’s the Deal With…?” page for answers to questions commonly asked by visitors to Washington, DC.
Making a specific request is one of the most common reasons for contacting a member of Congress. When making contact with a member of Congress or with a member’s staff, it is imperative that the reason for doing so be clearly and succinctly communicated. Members of Congress have significant demands placed upon their time, so succinctly communicating your reason for making contact will make it easier and faster to accomplish your goal.
State clearly what you want. For instance, you might request that they co-sponsor a bill, or you might request a hearing to be held on a particular issue. Regardless of your request, state your request clearly and concisely so there is no question regarding the nature of your request.
Another common reason for contacting a member of Congress is to thank them for contact that has already taken place. Polite protocol calls for sending a thank-you note following a meeting. For instance, if you have already had contact with the staff of a member of Congress to make a request, it is a good idea to send an email following up thanking them for their time. This is also a good opportunity to reiterate your request to ensure that it is not overlooked.
Members of Congress and their staff are inundated with requests on a daily basis. Following up with a thank-you is not only the polite thing to do, but it also keeps your name and concern at the top of the list.
Finally, you might wish to follow up regarding any questions that may have arisen during a meeting that was previously held. Even if you have previously sent a thank-you note, if subsequent issues have come up, you should not hesitate to make contact again, particularly if it is an ongoing matter. Following up can help to keep the lines of communication open between you and your member of Congress, and help you become established as a reliable constituent regarding the topic.
For more information, see
- “What’s the deal with contacting my Representative or Senators?”
- Our FAQ: “How to Contact Congress”
- How do I get an American flag that has flown over the U.S. Capitol?
- A Guide for Communicating with Congress
- Congressional Operations Briefing – Capitol Hill Workshop
- Drafting Federal Legislation and Amendments
- Writing for Government and Business: Critical Thinking and Writing
- Custom, On-Site Training
- Drafting Effective Federal Legislation and Amendments in a Nutshell, Audio Course on CD
- Congress, the Legislative Process, and the Fundamentals of Lawmaking Series, a Nine-Course series on CD
Legislative Drafter’s Deskbook: A Practical Guide
Citizen’s Handbook to Influencing Elected Officials: A Guide for Citizen Lobbyists and Grassroots Advocates
CongressionalGlossary.com, from TheCapitol.Net
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