Archive for April, 2012

Legislative Strategy: What to do when Congress isnt in session

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 by Nicholas

Thanks to a wacky legislative schedule, and this being an election year, there are going to be many, many days where no one is around on Capitol Hill, either Members or staff. The current schedule has many holes in it where Congress won’t be in session, with many whole weeks off. As a result, there will be longer than usual stretches without legislative activity.

However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t something to be done. These weeks when Congress isn’t in session offer valuable time to reassess legislative strategy (or plan new ones), catch-up on work that is currently outstanding, and hold meetings with the staff that is available. Here is a list of things that can be done during a non-session week that will pay off in the long term:

- Handle any and all outstanding requests for information that might have piled up over the last few weeks.

- Update contacts lists, both for staff and other lobby groups that you are working with. Databases like are essential here and cut down on wasted time.

- Map out future legislative activity and what you can do about it now. For example, if you think that you will have a chance to introduce new language to an upcoming bill that wasn’t predicted before, start drafting the language now so you will have a jumping off point and save valuable time during the session.

- Do a frank assessment of resources that you have or are currently using. How are those resources currently paying off and how are they helping your long-term legislative strategy? Too often people get tunnel vision and focus on the help of one office or Member to the detriment of their topic. Is everyone you’re working with doing their jobs or should you shift more focus elsewhere? Remember, you should have a clearly defined strategy that will get you to a specific destination.

- Speaking of shifting focus, is it time to shift from one body of Congress to the other or one Committee to the next? Downtime gives you a chance to tailor you game plan to the phase of your strategy. So if you know that you are getting out of SubCom soon, what do you need to do to get out of Committee?

- Take (primarily staff) meetings that you think will help pay off in the long-term, especially if you have any requests that you foresee will require an existing relationship.

- If you meeting targets aren’t in town, unless it is very urgent, I recommend against leaving messages or e-mails during a break. When Members and staff get back they usually have a long, long list of things that NEED to be done and it is very easy to get lost in the shuffle. Even the best staffer has only so much time in his/her day and if they don’t triage their schedule, then things will pile-up to an impossible point.

If you go into a break with a plan, rather than just trying to use it to catch your breath, you can get a head start on the competition before they can gather themselves.