Communicating With Congress- Rosters and Helpful
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.
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
in the political process.
Avoid scientific jargon. Remember that members and staff are mostly
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 information.
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
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:
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 voti ng records,
finances, and policy statements
Explain how the issue affects other constituents, not just yourself.
Use conversational language and avoid technical terms.
Congressional Committee Rosters and Hearing Information
(106th Congress, 1999-2000)
U.S. House of Representatives
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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)