Meeting with a Member of Congress at home should be something every citizen considers. The objective is to establish yourself as a credible source of knowledge and expertise, and to foster a relationship with the Member and their staff.
August is the best month to schedule a meeting with your legislators (Senators or your district’s Representative), as Congress generally blocks off early August through Labor Day for a summer recess and Members spend a good amount of time at home.
There are exceptions, however. This year, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cancelled the Senate’s August recess due to the backlog of nominations and appropriations, so your Senators may have less time at home this year. Recess is the time for Members to return to their districts to meet with constituents, and often, campaign if it is an election year.
To schedule a meeting, first locate your Senators and Congressional representative. Once you have identified which legislators you would like to meet, go to their respective websites and determine what process that office uses to schedule meetings. Some offices utilize web forms, others provide email addresses. You may also call the office (in D.C. or one of the district offices) and ask to speak with the member’s scheduler or assistant. When making your request, whether through email or a phone call, use the following format as a guide:
- Give your name and say that you are a constituent. Disclose the names of any other participants in the meeting if you are organizing a group meeting.
- Say when you would like to have a meeting. It is best to give a range of dates and times.
- List what you would like to discuss in the meeting.
- Provide your contact information.
Once your request has been sent, be proactive about following up if you haven’t heard back in a few weeks. Keep in mind that your Member may be unavailable to meet, and you may be directed to meet with legislative staff. These meetings are still important as the staff will relay your message back to their boss.
When your appointment is scheduled, be sure to confirm it with the scheduler a few days prior to the meeting. Prepare for your meeting by researching your legislator’s background and stances on issues. The best way to do this is by reading their website.
During the visit, explain who you are and what you would like to talk about. Often, it is helpful to bring a leave-behind document as this can guide your conversation and serve as a refresher of the meeting for the Member and their staff. Be mindful of the time, as Members often have appointments booked back to back.
Following the meeting, be sure to email a thank you note and share any follow up information the office may have requested. Check in every few months with the staff and offer your expertise and input when you know the Member is making a big decision. Giving input to the policy making process is a worthwhile endeavor so make a plan to schedule your summer meeting now.