Getting Started: Who to Contact
Getting to Know Your Members of Congress
As the elected oﬃcials who represent you, your members of Congress must maintain sensitivity to your views as their constituent. During each election, legislators must win support of their district or state, which provides you, the voter, important leverage.
APA's Government Relations teams are here to help. We can tell you about recent developments or votes, and give you an insider look at the best approach to take. Call (202) 336-6182 or email us for help planning your advocacy message.
Each member's website includes their press releases, bios and committee assignments. Sign up for your members' newsletters via their website; the newsletter will keep you current on how they're voting and local appearances such as town hall meetings where constituents can ask questions.
Most members of Congress also have Twitter accounts you can follow.
The Role of Congressional Staff
Congressional Office Staff: In most congressional oﬃces, legislative assistants will handle content areas of interest to you. Representatives and senators rely heavily on their staﬀ for knowledge and key information on specific issues. Staﬀ members commonly handle multiple subject areas. Because their input strongly influences the members’ stance on an issue, developing a relationship with key congressional staﬀ is a good investment of time and energy.
District Office Staff: Staﬀ in district oﬃces are responsible for lawmakers’ appointments and appearances in the district. Some staﬀ function as caseworkers to help constituents with problems pertaining to federal programs and operations, such as Social Security questions, eligibility for federal disability programs and immigration issues. Staﬀ in the district offices usually do not handle legislative portfolios, but serve as important communicators, relaying constituent concerns to lawmakers, evaluating local problems and communicating the local impact of federal programs.
Committee and Subcommittee Office Staff: In addition to legislators’ personal oﬃce staﬀ, committees and subcommittees also maintain professional staﬀ. Committee staff are subject matter experts on the issues relevant to the jurisdiction of the committee or subcommittee. They may also work for the legislators who chair or serve as ranking member of the committee or subcommittee.
What to Say
Be clear and concise when delivering your message and request to policymakers. What is it you want them to do? Constituents often ask members of Congress to cosponsor legislation, cast a “yea” or “nay” vote in committee or on the House or Senate floor, support a program’s continuation or increase in funding, or simply give more attention to a certain issue.
Legislators need to know how this issue is aﬀecting his/her state or district, and may request additional information from constituents or other stakeholders. Oﬀering the right data or anecdote sometimes means the difference between a legislator taking the requested action or not.
When to Say It
The timing of your communications will depend on your message and request. Sometimes, requests for co‐sponsorship make the most impact at the time of introduction when the issue is fresh. In addition, legislators also need to hear from constituents in the days leading up to a specific vote about why they should vote one way or the other. The appropriations cycle, including hearings, markups and votes, also oﬀers numerous opportunities for outreach from constituents on funding levels of key priority. There is no secret to the timing; however, it does require some specific information about current events and the congressional calendar. APA staﬀ can serve as a good resource in determining when the most appropriate time to communicate to members of Congress is.
How to Reach Out
Once you have the contact, message, timing and location in‐hand, advocates need to decide how to deliver their message.
About APA Advocacy
APA represents the largest and most visible national presence advocating for psychology at the federal level. There are three APA government relations offices and two APA-affiliated organizations that engage in government relations activities.