Thursday, November 30, 2017

More Capitol Hill Resources for a Busy December

With today’s Senate vote on their tax bill, it seems like an ideal time to pass along a couple additional tools for monitoring legislative movement on Capitol Hill.

Committee webpages: 

The webpages for congressional committees contain a wealth of information, including live video links for hearings and mark-ups.  In DC, interested parties used to pay young professionals to line up early in the morning to reserve spots in the committee hearing room, but the wonders of the Internet have made it possible for anyone to follow most hearings online. On these sites, you will also find committee reports, archived hearings, transcripts, documents, and press releases. Political views on these websites are going to be reflective of the Republican Party, since they control both chambers, but each website will also include a link to a page or site for the Democratic Party.

List of House Committee Websites:
List of Senate Committee Websites:

Congress App: 

We have previously mentioned this App, which was produced by the Sunlight Foundation until recently. While no longer managed by the Sunlight Foundation, it's still an excellent pocket resource for all Android phone users, including information on floor votes, bills, and hearing schedules. All information for the App is provided by ProPublica, a nonprofit organization focused on investigative journalism. 


This is a nationwide tracking tool for iPhone and Android that has information on legislation, legislators, and hearings for state legislatures, as well as Congress. This App allows you to search by policy area and save searches for later.

Government Looking Glass: 

This relatively new App for iPhone users provides information about congressional legislation. Using information from a variety of sources (VoteSmart, ProPublica, Open States, and the Sunlight Foundation), this tool determines an overall score for members based on your position on a range of policy issues, while also providing contact links to tell your representatives how you feel about these issues.

IPhone Link:

Monday, November 27, 2017

Master Capitol Hill like an Insider

Now that the Thanksgiving meals are over and the Black Friday shopping has come to an end, Congress has returned to face one of its busiest weeks of the year. With debates on taxes, healthcare, appropriations, and the debt ceiling, there’s a little something for everybody! We thought we would share some tools to help you research legislation on Capitol Hill.


GovTrack is not a government resource, but it’s an excellent easy-to-use site that allows users to keep track of bills and votes, as well as the voting records of your Representatives and Senators. Additionally, the site provides some excellent educational resources about Congress, the legislative process, and Committee activities. Users can set up alerts to keep up-to-date on bills of particular interest to them.

Congress.Gov Appropriations Page:

As we have discussed before, the Appropriations process can be complex.’s Appropriations page is an amazing way to visualize all of the appropriations bills and their current status in one quick glance. It’s particularly helpful for finding and comparing Committee reports on a House bill with its companion Senate bill. This makes it easy to see how funding for one agency differs in the House and Senate bills. 

- By Jared Payne

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Our Best Recipe.. for a Congressional Meeting

Thanksgiving is an annual event where families come together, share stories, grow closer and stuff their face. Minus the stuffing their face part, there are a lot of parallels to be drawn between Thanksgiving and Lobby Days. Lobby Days are an annual event where advocates come together, share their stories on Capitol Hill, and build relationships with Members of Congress and their staff. Furthermore, the various components of Thanksgiving dinner can be used as a metaphor for the perfect congressional meeting (yes, these are the things I think about). Here’s a breakdown of how you can use everyone’s favorite holiday meal as a guideline for your upcoming Lobby Day:

1)      The turkey is the “ask”. It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving if we didn’t start with the turkey (or tofurky for you vegetarians out there). The turkey is the highlight of the dinner, the centerpiece that makes it Thanksgiving. If you take the turkey out of the equation, the rest of the dinner is almost pointless. This is why the turkey is just like the “ask” in your congressional meeting. You can have the most productive, friendly, informative meeting, but if you leave that office without asking your Member of Congress to do something specific then you have just wasted your time. Legislators and their staff have a lot on their plate, including taking time to meet with constituents like you, so unless you ask them to do something tactile they will likely shake your hand as you leave and then forget all about you.

2)      The stuffing is your story. The turkey might be the most important part of the meal, but the stuffing is always the fan favorite. At least in my household, the stuffing is the most enjoyed part of the meal and is usually what everyone leaves the table still talking about. That’s why the stuffing is like your personal story. Members of Congress and their staff want to meet with their constituents for one reason—they want to hear your personal story and how you are affected by what they do as a legislator. Leaving out your personal story would be like leaving out the stuffing in Thanksgiving dinner—the staffer will feel underwhelmed and unfulfilled.

3)      The green beans are your hard facts. Green beans certainly aren’t as popular as stuffing when it comes to Thanksgiving dinner. That said, they are a necessary supplement that help to complete the meal. This is why green beans are like the hard facts of your congressional meeting. Not everyone loves eating their veggies, and not every staffer loves dealing with figures and percentages. Still, they need to be included in your meeting as a way of backing up whatever it is you are asking for. Using numbers effectively to show how a certain policy will affect you, your business or a large number of people in their district will help you to drive home the “ask.”

4)      The pumpkin pie is your follow up. Hours have passed, the football game is on, you’ve taken a little tryptophan nap, and you’re almost fully digested. By now you’ve almost forgotten that you ate this huge, delicious dinner—but wait! Suddenly it’s time for pumpkin pie, a reminder that Thanksgiving isn’t over yet. Pumpkin pie is like the follow up in a congressional meeting—you want to make sure the meeting isn’t forgotten without any action taken. It’s important to continue to build your relationship with a congressional office throughout the year, and you can start by following up a day or two after your meeting with a “thank you.” In the weeks ahead, make sure to send over any information you didn’t have in the meeting that you said you would get back to them on and remind them of your “ask.” This is a good foundation for maintaining contact throughout the year and developing that relationship further. Congressional staff always appreciate follow up, and I always appreciate pumpkin pie.

Have a happy and safe Thanksgiving/Lobby Day preparation meal. 

- By Kaytee Yakacki

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Take a Look at the 2017 Election Results!

Take a look at some of the highlights of 2017 election results by clicking through the tabs near the top of this New York Times webpage:

Never say your vote doesn’t count, because it appears control of the Virginia House of Delegates may hinge on a 12 vote difference.

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

It's Election Day! Go Vote!

It’s Election Day, America! Or- at least it is for many of you. While nearly all of the political pundit class is focused on the tight race for Governor of Virginia, there are also statewide races in New Jersey, a mayor’s race in New York City, a special House election in Utah, and countless other local races across the U.S. Other states, like Maine and Ohio, have crucial ballot measures to consider.

Regardless of where you stand politically, it’s essential you figure out what’s on your ballot, get informed, and go vote. Those who vote are the ones who have a seat at the table, and a say in decisions. If you stay home, you give someone else that power instead. 

- By Jared Payne

Wednesday, November 01, 2017

Your Senators Have a Sweet Tooth Too

It’s November 1st, and you likely have tons of candy collected by your child last night, or leftover candy intended for trick-or-treaters. On the Senate floor, every day is like this- because in the far right side of the chamber sits something known as the Candy Desk.  Since the tradition began in the 1960’s, the 16 different Senators assigned to this desk have had the responsibility of keeping it well stocked with tasty treats. Ethics rules require the candy come from the home state of the Senator occupying the desk.

Because the desk is on the right side of the chamber, where the Republicans sit, providing the candy is always tasked to a Republican. Senator Pat Toomey from Pennsylvania, where Hershey’s and Just Born are headquartered, currently occupies the desk. This gives our nation’s Senators steady access to Hershey’s Kisses, Reese’s, Mounds, as well as Mike and Ike, and Hot Tamales. Toomey was assigned the desk starting in 2015, but Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA) previously  had the job for 10 years from 1997-2007.  

- Jared Payne