How to Call Congress

Obama Phone Pete Souza White House

Even Presidents do it. (Pete Souza/White House)

Calling your members of Congress is one of the quickest and most effective ways to influence political decisions. A phone call is a way to quickly cast an unofficial “vote” on any issue you wish to give voice to. Letting your representative know how you feel is a way to influence how they lead between elections. We are going to go over how to call your United States representatives below – whether it is your Senator or House of Representatives.

 

Does calling really matter?

Yes! Calling is important because it lets your representative know exactly where you stand and ensures that they hear you. Politicians are aware that their constituents put them in office and have the power to take them out of office.

If one person cares enough to pick up the phone and call them, that same person can be a powerful force come election day – whether it is persuading friends and co-workers to vote, volunteering time for/against the representatives, or donating money. A person who cares enough to call is a person who can be expected to take action in other ways as well.

Make the two minute phone call. Politicians may not see your social media posts, but they will know if you call.

Kamala Harris w Interns Twitter

These are the smiling faces of the people answering your call. Except for Senator Harris – she won’t be tallying calls. (via Kamala Harris Twitter)

One last thing – it may be helpful to some to know who they will be talking to when they call. Your call will be received by a young staffer or intern. You will not be speaking to the Congressperson, the Chief-of-Staff, a Policy Director, or a Secret Service Agent. You are speaking to somebody whose job it is to answer the phone and accurately report your concerns.

Do not worry if you have never called your representative before. We are going to break down this down.

 

1. Determine the reason for your call

Let’s keep things simple. Pick one issue to call about, even if you have opinions on every breaking news story. Stick with one primary issue to ensure your Congressperson is entirely clear about the reason you are reaching out. Is it healthcare? Is it foreign affairs? Is it a new real estate development in your neighborhood? You can pick anything, but be clear with yourself before you dial the phone. You want to be able to say, “I am calling about [topic].”

One more thing via Patheos

How many topics am I going to cover on my call? One. (via Patheos)

 

2. Decide where you stand on the issue

The easiest way to articulate this to your Congressperson’s office is by stating whether you “support” or “oppose” an issue. You want to be clear about an action you are supporting/opposing. The more you can guide your representative, the more they can do to make you a happy constituent.

Here are a few examples:

Healthcare – you would say, “I support/oppose repealing the Affordable Care Act.”

(Instead of just stating, “I support/oppose healthcare.”)

Business – “I support/oppose lowering taxes on small businesses.”

(Instead of “I support/oppose small businesses.”)

Education – “I support/oppose greater funding for charter schools.”

(Instead of “I support/oppose charter schools.”)

 

Note: You do not need to be well-versed in everything your representative has done for each particular issue. You are not calling because you are an expert in the day-to-day activities of your representative. You are calling because it matters to you. Sometimes offices will share a pre-written statement describing where your representative stands on the issue you call about.

 

3. Look up your Senator or Representative’s phone number

We are all set with the hard part of forming an opinion. Calling is the easy part. But taking the few minutes to locate a Senator or Representative’s phone number can often mean the difference between calling and not calling.

There are several websites dedicated to helping you locate your Congressmen’s contact information. We are going to use WhoIsMyRepresenative.com in this example because it will allow you to look up both Senators and your House Representative with one search. Here is a mini-walkthrough to retrieve this information within 60 seconds.

i. ) Go to WhoIsMyRepresentative.com.

ii.) Enter your Zip code.

iii.) A new page will load identifying both of your U.S. Senators and your U.S. Representative. Click on any of their names to start.

 

McCain via HuffPost

Save the number in your phone…or Blackberry (via HuffPost)

iv.) You will be taken to a page with their phone number, address, and website. Notice that the phone numbers have the 202 area code. This is a DC area code. Calling this number is fine – you will be heard. But calling the local office in your state will be more effective. State offices exist to handle constituent-focused work. To retrieve their local office numbers, click on the hyperlink labelled “Website”.

v.) Find the local office phone number. This is often at the bottom of the Congressperson’s webpage, so scroll down until you see it. A second place to find it is under any “Contact” links. Each Congressperson has their webpage designed differently, but most of them make their contact information easy to locate. If you see multiple office locations within your state, calling any of them is fine.

Tip: Save this information to your phone.

 

4. Make the Call

Now is the part where you actually share your opinion. We provide a template script below that you are welcome to read off for ease. It is important to cover three main points in your call:

– Introduce who you are and where you are calling from

– State the topic you are calling about

– Be clear about whether you support or oppose an action

 

That’s it. Cover those three bases and you will have succeeded in your call. The most important thing is to be clear about whether you support or oppose an action. The staffer you are speaking to is often just tallying calls for/against each issue. Those tallies are what your member of Congress will receive.

 

Additionally, you can:

– Give a brief reason for your stance

– Ask what they will do about it

 

Here is our template. After filling in the blanks, read through it once to make yourself comfortable. Adjust it as you see fit.

Script:

My name is   (Name)_ from _(Location)  . I am calling about  (Issue)  .  I want my Congressperson to know that I   (Support/Oppose)  this issue.

I    (Support/Oppose)   this action because __(Reason)__.

I am contacting you because I want to know what you are going to do to show you take this issue seriously.

Thank you.

 

That is all you need to say. The staffer will thank you and the call will end. Occasionally the staffer will read a pre-written statement addressing the issue you are calling about. Some offices may ask for your address. This is usually done so they can mail you a letter response.

Notice how the call is not a political debate. The staffer will not challenge your opinion. They will not ask you policy details. They will not diminish your personal experience. You are not calling a Senior Policy Advisor waiting to challenge you on the minutiae of legislation. In fact, if the person you speak to expresses any opinion one way or the other about the topic you are calling on, that is an anomaly.

Biden Joe Biden Twitter

Some people have fun with this. (via Joe Biden Twitter)

5. Share

You took part in democracy. You made a difference because you took action. Those who take action are the ones who politicians will heed. Share your experience on social media or in conversation. You can inspire others to do the same. And the more calls a politician receives, the more pressure they have to listen to them or else face the consequences in the next election.

obama cell gif

 

Have anything you would like to share with us? Contact us and let us know how it went.