Government Affairs Program

Communicating With Congress- Rosters and Helpful Hints

The Special Updates and Alerts sent out by AGI's Government Affairs Program frequently suggest interacting with your member of Congress and/or their staff as a way of impacting the political system and ensuring geoscience representation in policy. Form ing a personal relationship with your member is an important part of being an active citizen. Your representatives 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 at the district office, are generally the most effective way to explain your position. Visits are not, however, always feasible, and a well-reasoned personal letter is often a more practical way to get your message across. The following information is meant to serve as a resource for helping you better communicate with Congress. Specific advice is available on

Tips for 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: Ensure that your letter is legible and includes your name, address, telephone number, and e-mail. Traditional correspondence is more easily handled and is generally thought to be more effective than electronic mail in many congressional offices, althou gh that is expected to change in time. Faxes should be avoided unless there are time constraints.

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. Rosters of the relevant House and Senate Appropriations subcommittee members with their jurisdiction can be found on AGI' s Government Affairs Page. 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 senators.

Visiting 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:

Congressional Committee Rosters and Hearing Information (106th Congress, 1999-2000)

U.S. House of Representatives  
U.S. Senate

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 Government Affairs Program at

Contributed by Kasey Shewey White, AGI Government Affairs.
Last updated March 2, 1999 (Technical correction: 5-24-00, 5-12-01, and 1-9-03)

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