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June 25, 2013
Calling Congress: A Need and a PrimerLast Tuesday Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) and 39 other congressmen introduced the Parental Rights Amendment, HJRes. 50, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Since then, 4 more cosponsors have signed on in support.
Other congressmen, however, have communicated that they are waiting to hear from more of their constituents. In some districts, this makes sense: your contacts provide them with cover. Should anyone call to oppose our resolution, your congressman can tell them, “I have heard from dozens/scores/hundreds/thousands (as the case may be) of other constituents who support this Amendment.”
I have to admit, though, that when a congressman says, “I want to hear from more people in my district before I sign on,” I can’t help but hear a challenge. My mental response is, “Yeah? Be careful what you wish for....”
In that spirit, we would like to generate as many calls to Congress as we can (except to those who are already cosponsors) encouraging them to sign on to the Amendment. Here’s all you need to do to make that happen – whether you favor the easy approach or building long-term relationships.
The Easy ApproachMaybe you’ve never called before; maybe you’ve been concerned it would take up too much time or effort. This “easy approach” is for you. You can probably place your call in a minute or less.
1. Visit ParentalRights.org/States and click on your state (either on the map or using the two-letter postal abbreviation in the right sidebar). On your state’s page, locate your lawmaker’s D.C. phone number and call.
2. A member of your congressman’s staff (usually a receptionist, but perhaps an intern) will answer the phone. Identify yourself and be sure to tell them you are a constituent.
3. Politely tell them why you are calling, including the specific action you would like to see, the name and number of the item about which you are calling, and how the office can take action.
In this case, it might go like this: “I am calling to urge the Congressman to cosponsor HJRes. 50, the Parental Rights Amendment. You can contact Patrick Fleming in Mark Meadows’ office to sign on.” You can add a line or two about why parents’ rights are so vital to you (our website is full of ideas) and why the Congressman needs to preserve them through this Amendment.
4. The staff person will most likely take your message; you can thank them and hang up. There is a chance, though, that they will offer to transfer you to the person handling that issue. In that case, simply tell that staff person what you told the receptionist. It is that simple.
The Relational ApproachMaybe you’re ready to invest more time and effort in seeing the Amendment pass. It can still be pretty simple. Here’s all you do:
1. Visit ParentalRights.org/States and click on your state either on the map or the sidebar. On your state’s page, locate your representative’s D.C. phone number and give them a call.
2. A staff person will answer the phone – likely a receptionist or an intern. Try to catch their name and use it. Identify yourself, tell them you are a constituent, and tell them that you are calling to support the Parental Rights Amendment. Then ask, “Who in your office handles that issue?” and ask to be transferred to that person. Be sure to write down the name (and position if you get it). You will want to build a rapport with this person.
3. There is a good chance that person will not be immediately available. You can be transferred to their voice mail, or you can ask if you could get their email address and simply email them. If you email, you might attach a copy of HJRes50 so they don’t have to look it up.
4. Politely tell them why you are calling, including the specific action you would like to see, the name and number of the item about which you are calling, and how the office can take action. (See the example in #3 of the Easy Approach).
Be sure to mention why parents’ rights are so vital to you (our website is full of ideas) and why the Congressman needs to preserve them through this Amendment.
5. If you are talking live (as opposed to leaving a voice mail or email), ask them two simple questions (if you feel comfortable enough): “Was your office already familiar with this Amendment?” And “Do you know of any concerns the congressman has with the Amendment that I might be able to get answered for you?”
If you get these two questions answered, share that with us. We can provide answers to your congressman’s concerns. This will help you build relationships in that office by establishing that you are capable and informed. Even if they have no questions, you have made yourself a resource for them, which helps define your relationship.
6. Follow up. Call again later. Ask by name for the person taking care of the PRA. Ask if they have any questions you can get answered so the congressman can sign on. When they’re in their state offices over July 4 week or in August, you might even drop by for a brief visit.
Over time, you can develop a relationship with them – even if they are from “the wrong party.” Find common ground, remain friendly and respectful, and help them to see that protecting parents in just common sense. Offer them your help in understanding our cause. That staff member you befriend can influence your congressman to support your parental rights.
Whichever path fits you, please take the time now to call. Together we can move the Amendment forward in this Congress – then move it to the Senate and the States.
Director of Communications & Research
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