Communicating with Congress -
Rosters and Helpful Hints
Special Updates and Alerts sent out by AGI's Geoscience Policy
staff sometimes suggest interacting with your member of Congress as a way of explaining the value of geoscience or explaining the role of geoscience in a policy decision. Communicating with your
member is an important part of being an active and responsible citizen. Your members
have been elected to serve you, and they need to know what you, their
constituent, believe are the important issues. Visits to your member,
either in Washington or within the state or district, are generally the most
effective way to explain your position. Visits are not, however, always
feasible, and a well-reasoned personal letter is another practical
way to get your message across. The following information is meant to
serve as a resource for helping you better communicate with Congress.
Writing Your Member of Congress
Taking the time to write a letter shows sincerity and thoughtfulness.
Your correspondence will be more effective if you follow these
guidelines provided by the American Institute of Physics:
- Timing is important: A letter sent after Congress
acts is a missed opportunity, while correspondence sent months
before an issue is considered is likely to be forgotten. AGI
strives to provide you with the most up-to-date information
on issues, and will continue to send alerts of critical times
- Avoid scientific jargon. Remember that members and
staff are mostly generalists.
- Limit your letter to one page and one subject.
- In the first paragraph, explain your reason for writing.
Briefly note your "credentials," and include other pertinent
- In the second paragraph, describe the importance of
the issue. Cite relevant facts and avoid emotionalism. Frame
your discussion from a national, rather than a personal, perspective.
- In the third, and concluding paragraph, request (not
demand) a specific action. Thank the Member for his/her consideration
of your views. Offer assistance.
Ensure that your letter includes your name, address, telephone
number, and e-mail. Due to increased security for postal mail,
it is better and faster to send your letter by email or fax.
For an email, be sure to include a specific and clear subject
heading, such as: Please support "bill name", "bill
number". If possible, put the text of the letter into the
main body of the email. Attachments are not recommended. Some
members have email forms on their web sites, where you can copy
and paste your letter into the main message box.
For a fax, be sure to include a specific and clear subject heading,
such as: Please support "bill name", "bill number".
The correct address style is:
The Honorable __________
United States House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable __________
United States Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Representative __________:
Dear Senator __________:
Cite a specific bill when possible. Please contact the AGI Government
Affairs Program with any questions. A list
of the relevant House and Senate committees is available below.
More information on all House
Committees and Senate Committees
is available on their respective web sites. To determine by zip
code who your representative is, visit the House
"Write Your Representative" page. Visit the Senate
web site for contact information and to learn more about your
Back to top
Your Member of Congress
You have two options for visiting your member of Congress - meeting
either in Washington or in your home district when Congress is
on recess (known as a "district work period" in the House). Generally,
visits in your district are more relaxed, as your representative
is not distracted by floor votes or other procedural matters.
Moreover, members tend to better recall meetings back home, since
they have returned to keep in touch with the concerns of the people
who elected them. Washington visits are also effective, and have
the advantage of meeting with staff members, who are usually easier
to gain an appointment with and whose opinions are highly regarded
by their senator or representative. The Senate (202-224-3121)
and House (202-225-3121) switchboards will connect you with your
member. The following tips are applicable to both types of meetings:
- Plan your visit early, but be flexible. Unanticipated schedule
changes occur often, and you may meet with a staffer. Treat
this visit as if you were meeting with the member.
- If you are meeting as part of a group, decide on a spokesperson.
Generally this person should be from the member's district,
as members are most concerned with constituent concerns.
- Expect a short visit, usually 15 minutes or less.
- Know your message, and stick to it. If possible, bring a
visual aid or a one page handout to leave after your visit.
- Do your homework. Know which committees your member serves
on, and examine the voting record to learn of positions on previous
issues. The Project Vote
Smart web page has information on all members voting records,
finances, and policy statements
- Explain how the issue affects other constituents, not just
- Use conversational language and avoid technical terms.
Back to top
Committees of Interest
U.S. House of Representatives
Back to top
Visit our sources for more information: Institute
of Electrical and Electronics Engineers USA, Engineer's Guide to Public
Policy; American Institute
of Physics Bulletin of Science Policy News, 1997 #69; American
Geophysical Union ASLA materials
Please send any comments or requests for information to the AGI Geoscience Policy.