Making Visits on Capitol Hill
How to Schedule a Meeting with Your Legislator or their Staff
- Find your representatives in the House and Senate.
- Call the member's office and ask the name of the person in the representative's Capitol Hill office assigned to health-related issues.
- Once you have the name, call the office and schedule an appointment. If your member's office number is not readily available, you can contat them through the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
- When you are able to reach staff (some persistence may be required), explain the purpose of your calls to schedule a visit to discuss the important injury and violence prevention issues in your state.
Meeting with a member of Congress or congressional staff is an effective way to convey a message about a specific legislative issue. And, it's easier than you think. Many people are intimidated when considering their first visit to the Hill, but it's important to keep in mind that the staffers you are meeting with are in place to work for you, the member's constituent. Federal legislators rely heavily on their staff. Every member of the House of Representatives and every senator has a staff aide assigned expressly to deal with health issues; however, this does not mean that the staffer is an expert in all health issues. It is worthwhile to establish a relationship with these individuals, as it is their job to help their boss respond to constituents’ concerns. They may not have an abundance of time, but they are interested in what you have to say. Below are some suggestions to consider when planning a visit to a congressional office.
Plan Your Visit Carefully
Be clear about what it is you want to achieve; determine in advance which member or committee staff you need to meet with to achieve your purpose. Do some homework; this need not be time-consuming. Find out the legislator’s committee assignments. You can get this information by visiting www.house.gov. Prepare a one-page fact sheet for the member of Congress that summarizes the most important things you want to get across. You might already have a fact sheet to which you can add specific information about local needs. Safe States Alliance's Making a Difference publication is a proven resource on Hill visits.
During the Meeting
Arrive on time. It is not uncommon for a Congressperson to be late, or to have a meeting interrupted, due to the member's crowded schedule. If interruptions do occur, be flexible. When the opportunity presents itself, continue your meeting with a member's staff. Deliver your message quickly and expect to be asked questions. When a legislator or staffer asks you how he/she can help, be succinct in your explanation.
Members of Congress want to represent the best interests of their district or state. Wherever possible, demonstrate the connection between what you are requesting and the interests of the member's constituency. If possible, describe for the member how you or your group can be of assistance to him/her. Offer your time and assistance if he or she wants to talk about public health or injury and violence concerns in your state and community. Leave behind your business card and any fact sheets on your issues and needs. Follow up the meeting with a thank you letter that outlines the different points covered during the meeting, and send along any additional information and materials requested.
Information adapted from Research!America.