Connecting with Congress during the Government Shutdown
The ongoing government shutdown hasn’t just frozen vital federal programs and funding streams, it has also made it difficult for citizens frustrated by the gridlock to reach their members of Congress. Federal agencies were not the only organizations forced to furlough thousands of employees – Members of Congress also sent most of their Washington and district office staff home for the duration of the shutdown. These furloughs present an additional advocacy challenge to city leaders and NLC as we call on Congress to end the shutdown and get back to work on the substantive issues that matter to cities and their residents. With the shutdown now moving into its third week, most offices in the House of Representatives have committed their remaining senior staff to only receiving, cataloging, and responding to constituent contacts. If you strongly prefer email communication, or only have your legislators’ main office numbers, the House is a good place to start your advocacy efforts. You can use NLC’s online advocacy tools to call or email your elected officials about the shutdown and your city’s concerns. However, in the Senate many offices are either not answering their main phone and email lines, or have turned off their email systems entirely since the shutdown began. For these Members of Congress, the best approach is to apply public pressure via Twitter and other social media – you can send your own tweets with the hashtag #CleanCR or use NLC’s suggested tweets. You can also use other private communication channels you have developed through your relationships with these officials. Despite the government shutdown, now is not the time to stop leveraging the relationships you have developed with legislators and senior staff on Capitol Hill. If you have direct email addresses or mobile phone numbers for members of your congressional delegation, be sure to reach out to them directly on behalf of your community. Members of Congress and their staff need to know the toll that the ongoing budget gridlock is having on the people in their states and districts. After you have contacted Congress, be sure to share what you are seeing on the ground with NLC. We are compiling and sharing news and feedback from cities and towns across the United States. Tell Congress: end the government shutdown now. About the author: Angelina Panettieri is the Senior Associate for Grassroots Advocacy at the National League of Cities. She helps empower city leaders to engage directly with Congress on the issues most important to them.