Friday, August 10, 2012

The August Recess- Why It Exists and How to Advocate During the "Vacation"

It's August, the time when Congress is out of session for a month and everyone in the country asks, "Why the @#*^! are they taking a break?!" I understand the frustration, especially since issues like sequestration, tax reform, the several other issues remain unfinished.

Historically, back in the years of horse and buggy, the buildings our legislators worked in had no air conditioning. In August, the humidity in D.C. is OUTRAGEOUS. As a result, the House and Senate would adjourn for the month of August to run home just as the awful humidity began. During the 1960s, the August recess became law because many legislators wished to spend some time with their families. As you can probably imagine (or remember for some of you), the 1960s was a busy time for Congress. For members today, the recess is not a big vacation in the Bahamas or Cancun. The overwhelming majority of our legislators use the recess as an opportunity to return to their districts and reconnect with their constituents. Especially during an election year.

Regardless of how you feel about the recess, this can be a great opportunity for you to advocate for your issue. I would highly advise against having a lobby day, congressional briefing, or a meeting with congressional staffers in DC during August. Now is the time for your organization to turn its focus to creating a better relationship with the legislator IN THE DISTRICT. Connecting with your legislator in his or her home district will have a significant impact on the relationship as it solidifies your organization’s status as a vocal constituent group. Attending town hall meetings, arranging to have the legislator visit your workplace, or a simple meeting with the legislator will be enormously powerful in building a relationship with your Congressperson or Senator. The relationship you build today will be crucial tomorrow when you make your ask during the very busy session that is anticipated to occur once Congress returns.

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