Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Christmas, in September

On December 24, 2009, the Senate gathered for a 7 am vote on Christmas Eve, and unless you’re really in love with the idea of a high-stakes sleep away camp, the idea of being potentially stuck at work overnight on the day before Christmas probably doesn’t appeal to you. Unfortunately, that may be a reality for Congress and its staff this December.

To keen observers of DC, these huge legislative battles at a deadline are nothing new, even around holidays. Congress rang in 2013 with a desperate Senate vote on the so-called ‘Fiscal Cliff’ two hours into the New Year. Recent legislation means that we appear likely to face December deadlines for more legislation needed to keep the federal government funded and open. Other action will be needed to ensure that the government has the authority to borrow money in order to make payments on the National Debt. Without an agreement on those bills earlier in the month, most of DC may be spending the winter holidays talking about amendments and cloture votes, rather than egg nog and holiday cheer.

This current Congress (the 115th) will be returning in January 2018, but in the holiday periods that immediately follow elections, the departing Congress may engage in some ‘Christmas tree legislating’, where dozens of unrelated ideas get tacked onto “must pass” bills, much like ornaments on a Christmas tree. We’re less likely to see that this year, but it’s helpful to remember for the December 2018 season.

If you want to learn more about the Congressional schedule, you can view the House calendar here: https://www.majorityleader.gov/2017-calendar/  and the Senate calendar here: https://www.senate.gov/legislative/2017_schedule.htm

Monday, September 18, 2017

Happy Constitution Day!

Every September, the United States has a day set aside to celebrate one of its two most well-known founding documents. Despite constantly being upstaged by the Independence Day and the Declaration of Independence in July, Constitution Day commemorates the Constitutional Convention of 1787 each year.

At the time, Americans were governed under the Articles of Confederation, and when delegates met in Philadelphia that summer, they originally intended to revise those Articles. Instead, we ended up with a brand new form of government.

To learn more about Constitution Day, visit some of these resources:


The National Constitution Center, in Philadelphia: https://constitutioncenter.org/

Friday, September 15, 2017

"To spend more time with my family..."

Over the last week, several seasoned members of the House announced their intentions to retire, and a few more may soon follow. While much of the discussion may be related to the political impact on next year’s midterm elections, don’t forget that, in most cases, they’re not leaving Washington immediately. They’re still your representatives, tasked with listening to and serving you!

Some Members will run for a different office, but many will not. Those that are leaving politics will be less focused on political calculations and fundraising, and potentially have greater time to focus on the nuances of policy. Many departing members will be thinking of their legacies, and could be seeking to achieve some long sought policy goals before retirement.

If your member of Congress is retiring, now could be the ideal time to reach out for a meeting to discuss topics where you may find some common ground. Some staff could soon be moving on from your Congressman’s office to other opportunities, which makes this an ideal time to re-connect with them, because they could provide a connection to a different congressional office, or an introduction to the person taking over their legislative portfolio. Keeping those staff relationships is always a wise move. Sometimes, they may even wind-up working for the incoming Member of Congress for your very district.


Connect with your legislators by visiting house.gov or senate.gov!

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Back to School, er . . . Work!



Perhaps it's my inner-child, but this time of year always inspires me to learn new things. In that the spirit of gaining knowledge, I thought people might be interested in this handy-dandy guide to the legislative process from the House Rules Committee. It's a step-by-step overview of how a bill becomes a law. Citizens and GR professionals should know this stuff for (at least) two reasons: first, it's much easier to win the policy game if you have an inkling of the rules; and, second, it will give you a good sense of all the places where a bill can die--sometimes a terrible, painful death. Referred to multiple committees? Death. Voted down by the Committee or Subcommittee (or, more likely, not considered at all)? Death. Doesn't get past the House Rules Committee? Death. Voted down or not scheduled for the floor? Death.

You get the point. It's like legislative Game of Thrones this time of year. Cersei would be completely comfortable on Capitol Hill. So, as we dive in to a busy September full of fights over debt ceilings and appropriations, advocates and GR professional alike will need to protect and nurture any favored legislative initiatives. And the best way to do so is to know the rules!

Stephanie Vance