Posts Tagged ‘legislative strategy’

Legislative Strategy: What to do when Congress isnt in session

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 by Vbhotla

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.

Presidential and Congressional Budget in the real world

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 by Vbhotla

During the recent budget and upcoming Appropriations Committee hearing, a question has been floating around the Hill: has the budget process become irrelevant? There is certainly an argument to be made for it. This year’s Presidential budget was received by many as a political document that was never to be taken as a serious proposal that could ever have the chance of going somewhere. As for the Congressional Budget, aside from the fact that there hasn’t been one for some time, it is pretty much accepted that it as well would be dead on arrival. So without budget resolutions, what’s still important to know about the budget process?

To put it simply: a lot, though not necessarily for the reasons that are traditionally associated with the budget process. To illustrate, 2007 was the first time Congress passed a year-long quasi-continuing resolution (aka the ‘Cromibus’) since the 1980s. Because of the way it was written, the Executive Departments decided to exercise some funding latitude on programs based on the proposed Presidential budget. The Department of Indian Affairs, for example, temporarily withheld funding for some programs that had been zeroed out of the President’s budget, claiming Congress had not given orders to the contrary in their budget. Though eventually the funds were paid out, the damage had been done to some programs.

With the constant possibility (especially in an election year) of a Continuing Resolution, this year’s Presidential budget free electronic cigarettes deserves inspection, especially if your programs are part of the more than 200 that have been eliminated or cut. Here are few highlights to be aware of moving forward in the process:

– Health spending was cut across the board, but most notably the Center for Disease Control took a $664m cut, the largest of any discretionary health spending.

– Low Income Home Energy Assistance with HHS was cut by more than $450m.

– Department of Transportation Grants-in-Aid programs received a $926m cut.

– Of the almost $8 billion in total savings, $4 billion is expected to come from cuts to the Defense Department.

– Department of Treasury is expected to have a more than $240m cut, particularly its vehicle procurement.

With the upcoming funding sequestration, important funding decisions are going to be made in the next year and some programs are going to be left without chairs when the music stops. Even if your program saw a positive number in the budget, the programs that didn’t are going to try to get their money from somewhere. can get you prepared for the rest of this year and into the next Congress by showing you who is being hired by whom and let you know what you and your clients need to be watching out for. Additionally, register now to learn more about the budget process and practical tips and tricks you can use in the upcoming audioconference.