You probably haven’t heard much about the Senate’s version of the health care bill, because a small committee has been working on it in secret. They’re currently planning zero public hearings, and trying to send it to the Congressional Budget Office before making any text public to the American people. If you don’t think this is okay—whatever your stance on health care—it’s time to pick those phones back up.
Your first call should be to your senator’s main number (in a state or Washington office, either is fine). For bonus points, call or ask for the staffer who works on health care issues—there’s a list here.
Calls are most influential if your senator is one of the Republicans who are writing the bill. You may also want to call moderate Republicans who are most likely to be swayed. But what do you do if your own personal senators are not on either of these lists? First, call anyway; add a point to their tally of “constituents who are mad about this.” And then take some action to reach those other folks.
It’s tricky, though: Calling a congressperson who doesn’t represent your state or district is pretty much a waste of time. So how do you get a message through to House or Senate leaders or the head of a committee? There are three things you can do, whether you’re concerned about health care or any other issue:
- Contact the position, not the person. A member of Congress’s phone number is for constituents, not for the general public. Leave those lines open, and instead look up the office for the position they hold. I can’t seem to find a number like this for Mitch McConnell, but there is a phone line for the Speaker of the House that is separate from Paul Ryan’s regular number. And instead of bugging Nancy Pelosi, write or call the Office of the Democratic Leader. Each committee has its own contact information as well. You can call either leader of the House Intelligence Committee, for example, without having to clog up either Rep. Nunes’s or Rep. Schiff’s constituent phone lines.
- Ask your rep to pressure the person you’re concerned about. This works best if you have a member of Congress who shares your views on an issue. Let them know that you care about what’s going on, and ask them how they are going to stand up to their colleagues.
- Get your friends to pick up the phone. Have some choice words for Pat Toomey? Text your friend in Pennsylvania and make the case for why they should pick up the phone. Want to deliver a message to Lindsay Graham? See if your buddy in South Carolina agrees with you, and persuade them to call or write. Getting others engaged in politics isn’t cheating; it’s all part of how democracy works. But don’t be too surprised if your friend turns out not to agree with you. We each get our own vote, after all.
These three tactics are effective ways to get your message through. Citizens who live in celebrity politicians’ districts will be glad that their phone lines aren’t quite so swamped, and you won’t waste your time with a phone call that won’t get logged.