Phoning Congress and State Legislators

Normally the best time to telephone members of Congress or state legislators is when you want then to take immediate action, as on an upcoming vote, and there isn't enough time for a letter or a visit. Here are some tips on what to say on the phone.

  • Phone calls should be concise—don't expect to get into an in-depth discussion. Talk about only one issue per call. Often, when a vote is imminent, all that's necessary is to mention the number and/or name of the bill and how you want the Congressperson or legislator to act. A couple of stinging points to support your position should be included.

  • If your calling a member of Congress or legislator with a large staff, ask to speak to the assistant who handles your particular issue. Make sure you get the name of the person with whom you are speaking. Take notes, document the entire conversation (don't tape).

  • Identify yourself, hometown, and phone number. That way the legislator knows your a constituent, and will be able to get back to you with more information. If you want to be identified as being from a particular organization, make sure you state that as well.

  • At the end of the call, be sure to ask for a commitment to a course of action. Sometimes, the Congressperson/legislator or staff member will not be able to give you an immediate yes or no answer. In that case, ask when you can expect an answer.

  • Here's an sample phone conversation:
    "Congresswoman Swayable's office."

    "Just one moment."...

    "Hello. May I speak to the legislative assistant who deals with education issues?"

    "This is Gary Greeter."

    "Hello. My name is Archie Advocate. I live in Anytown, in Congresswoman Swayable's district."

    "How may I help you?"

    "I'd like the Congresswoman to support the Equal Access to Education Act, HR 3456. Specifically, the provision including the fair sharing of curriculum resources to all children, regardless of where they go to school. Any exclusion of Catholic school children from such benefits would stand in the school house doorway baring equal access to education."

    "All right I'll let her know you feel."

    "Has she indicated how she will vote?"

    "She has no position at this time."

    "O.K. could you please get back to me with her stand either for or against? My number is...

  • If you'd like, follow-up your phone call with a short note to the elected official or staff member with whom you spoke, emphasizing your position and your appreciation of his/her attention to the issue. This can help build an ongoing relationship.

  • Remember always to be cordial with legislators and their staff. Though they may not share your position on a particular issue, when you contact them you're building a relationship which may be fruitful in the future.