Congress members are key because we need sufficient numbers of votes in the House and the Senate to pass National Improved Medicare for All (NIMA). We may need to educate members about the legislation (HR 676 in the House), push them to introduce companion legislation (there is currently no Senate version of HR 676), get them to co-sponsor the legislation, ask them to recruit other members or to speak publicly about National Improved Medicare for All or to hold briefings or hearings on National Improved Medicare for All and ultimately to vote to get it out of the relevant committees and vote for it on the floor of the House or Senate.
The ways that we interact with members of Congress depend on their position, what we want them to do and what stage of the struggle we are in. Always remember that members of Congress have different goals than we do – they want to please voters and maintain their corporate donations while our goal is to win National Improved Medicare for All. At times our relationship will need to be adversarial in order to achieve our goal.
Call or meet your Senators and Reps: Calling often has a greater impact than emails. Handwritten letters are even more impactful. Consider holding an event where people write letters to your member of Congress or create a post card that people can fill out and send. Click here for instructions.
To call, you can call the Capitol switchboard at 202 224 3121 and ask for your member of Congress or you can look up your member’s direct number on their website. If you aren’t certain who your member is, use a locator like these: Click here for the House. Click here for the Senate.
You will usually speak with the receptionist. Try to get through to the Health Legislative Assistant if possible. If not, then leave a message with the receptionist and ask for the name of the health staffer. Let the staffer know why it is important that your member of Congress support National Improved Medicare for All. Offer yourself as a resource to the health staffer if you feel comfortable in that role. You can send them information about National Improved Medicare for All (don’t send too much or too often, be concise and link to studies or articles that might be helpful).
Set up a meeting: This can be done in the local district or the Washington DC office. Usually you will get a meeting with a staffer. If you are persistent, you will be able to meet with your member. Bring a few people with you who represent different relevant constituencies such as someone in a health profession, a representative from labor or the business community, a patient, someone from a faith community or community organization, etc. This will demonstrate broad public support. Be careful not to bring too many people. The offices are often small. Each person should plan ahead of time to speak for a minute or two about their concerns. Bring concise written materials too. You will find information on the Tools for Education page.
Pointers for your meeting by Dr. Carol Paris: http://healthoverprofit.org/meeting-with-your-member-of-congress/
Are you ready to be a citizen lobbyist? Citizen lobbyists work to develop a relationship with their member of Congress’ health staff and to serve as a resource for them if they have questions about NIMA. If you sign up, each week you will receive an email on a specific topic related to NIMA that you can send to the staff. HOPE will provide resources if you are asked questions that you can’t answer. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested in being a citizen lobbyist.
Use the media to reach your member: Members of Congress watch the local newspapers. Visit the Tools for Media page to learn how to submit a letter to the editor. You can also post on your members Facebook page or tweet at them.
Hold a Healthcare Truth Hearing: Alternatively, you can organize a public event such as a speak out or town hall and invite your member of Congress. You will need to work through their scheduler for this. If they give you the run around, you can still organize the event and place a chair with their name on it to show their absence.
Bird-dogging: Show up at public events that your Senators and Representatives will be attending in your district, state, or in D.C. Know the issue and ask them tough questions to get them and the media thinking, something they are not accustomed to doing. Push them for an answer. If they don’t respond, ask again. Hound them over and over, everywhere they go. Record the response and let everyone know! For more on bird-dogging see these tips.
Rallies, protests, direct action: Campaigns require planned escalation in tactics. If letters, call-ins, public events and bird-dogging are not sufficient, then you will need to increase the pressure. Hold a rally outside your member’s office or a protest. Rallies are events where speakers talk about the issues and rally people to take action. Protests usually have a tougher tone – people protest a member for doing something harmful or for failing to do something positive. There can also be speakers at a protest but the focus will be on the representative’s stance on the issue and will have a demand (Representative ____ must endorse HR 676!). You might want to picket outside your member’s local office.
If these don’t work, consider creative nonviolent direct action such as a sit-in, die-in, a blockade, etc.
Here are a few creative ideas:
Tape notes to your member’s office door and windows.
Hold a vigil at your member of Congress’s house.
March for National Improved Medicare for All
“Drop in and hangout” in your member’s office for an extended period of time.