August recess is a longstanding tradition in Congress, allowing federal lawmakers to balance their responsibilities in Washington, D.C., with their obligations to constituents. Representatives and Senators head back to their home districts and states for the month to take a break from their regular schedule of events, which includes hearings, debates, floor votes and committee meetings, but don’t think Congress is just using this time to vacation.
From July 31 to September 4 (the duration of August recess), Congressmembers will be campaigning locally and meeting with community members. Here are three opportunities to leverage this “off” time to further your organization’s policy priorities and strengthen relationships with members of Congress:
1. Arrange an In-District Meeting
Federal lawmakers might seem disconnected from concerns that are important to you, however, it’s important to recognize that they rely on constituent input and engagement to inform their decision-making and maintain their positions in office. In-district meetings provide a more accessible and personal setting for advocates to share their opinions on policy issues, garner support for legislation and build interpersonal connections with in-district staff.
During the 2022 August recess, CURA worked with the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation (PKDF) Advocacy Champions Network (ACN) to help advocates arrange in-district meetings with their members of Congress and staff. ACN Champion Patti Ruffin took advantage of this time by securing a meeting with Congressman Tony Gonzales (R-TX-23), which ultimately influenced his decision to cosponsor the Living Donor Protection Act.
2. Attend a Town Hall
Virtual or in-person Congressional town halls provide citizens with a unique platform to petition their government to remedy grievances and courageously voice their opinion on policy issues and solutions. Constituents can hold their legislators accountable in a public forum, and in turn lawmakers have the opportunity to present comprehensive justifications for their political stances.
Here are some tips for organizing and participating in a local town hall:
- Make your presence known by inviting local allies and supporters. Cohesive branding such as signs, shirts and flyers will help increase your organization’s visibility to members of Congress and local press.
- Ask concise questions that demand real answers. If you’d like your lawmaker to support specific legislation, come prepared to tell your story, explain the issue, how it impacts your community and urge them to enact meaningful policy solutions.
- Capture the event on social media and invite local press. Utilize media outlets to further garner the attention of your lawmakers and the public.
Although town halls are technically “public,” it’s not uncommon for members of Congress to delay announcing specific details to discourage large turnouts and avoid uncontrolled exposure to hostile encounters. Town halls are often advertised on their social media channels and websites, but we suggest also monitoring local news stations or contacting their in-district office for details.
3. Host an In-District Event
Representatives and Senators love good press and are often eager to participate in in-district events to demonstrate their connection to the community. Invite your member of Congress to an awareness walk, a site visit at a health care facility, or organize a special event, inviting fellow advocates and the media to participate.
Last year, CURA helped PKDF Advocacy Champion Glenn Frommer organize a press tour and arrange meetings with Congressmembers for his annual Ride for PKD, a cross-country bike tour to raise awareness and significant donations for polycystic kidney disease. 3,182 miles into his journey, Glenn met with Representative Sharice Davids (D-KS-03) in her district, which influenced Rep. Davids to cosponsor the Living Donor Protection Act.
For more information on how to engage federal lawmakers during August Recess, contact us!