Every other year (and even more so after a presidential election), there’s turnover on Capitol Hill as new members of Congress are sworn in for their terms. 2020 will bring at least 66 new representatives and senators to Washington. Now is the time to get to know these new members and their staff, and introduce them to the work of FCNL.
Meeting with new members of Congress and their staff is crucial to building lasting relationships that will help advance FCNL’s policy priorities. It’s especially important to balance persistence and patience as you reach out to these offices, who are just getting settled and caught up on the intricacies of governing.
Below, you’ll find resources to make this first step in the relationship a little bit easier. We’ve included a sample meeting request, helpful data, and answers to frequently asked questions about meeting with your new lawmakers.
How Do I Arrange a Meeting?
We’ve put together a short guide that will walk you through the process of setting up a meeting with your members of Congress. Remember: New congressional offices might not be fully staffed for a while. Be persistent, but be patient, too.
Facts and Figures: How Do New Members Get Settled Into Congress?
The Congressional Management Foundation surveyed new members of Congress elected in 2018, and found the following:
- 49% of new members have zero staff who have ever set up a new congressional office before. 32% of new members have one staff person who has helped set up a new office.
- 66% of new members have hired their chief of staff by December of their election year (before they were sworn in).
- 51% of new members hire one to three staffers from their campaign. An additional 33% of members say they hired four to five staff from their campaign.
- When asked how long it took to fully staff their office, 33% said were fully staffed by the end of January, 13% by the end of February, 21% by the end of March, and an additional 33% were not fully staffed until after March.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: When does my new member of Congress start working?
A: New members don’t actually get the keys to their office until they are sworn in on Jan. 3, 2021 (and new senators don’t move into their permanent offices until July). From November to that January start date, new members are in Washington, D.C. for orientation, learning the ropes, and beginning to hire some key staff.
Q: When will I be able to look up staff who work for my new member of Congress based on the issues they work on?
A: FCNL will be updating our Staff Lookup Tool as quickly as we are able. But it is important to remember that most offices aren’t fully staffed until about March. If you are looking to contact a staff person who works on a particular issue, we suggest calling the office to ask for the name of the best person to reach out to. You can reach your new member’s office by dialing the Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121.
Q: When do we know the committee assignments of our new members of Congress?
A: Committee assignments are typically finalized in late January, though some assignments might happen sooner.
Q: When will my member of Congress have their district office set up?
A: Some members of Congress get district offices set up quickly. In non-pandemic times, district and state offices are mostly finalized by March.
Q: Why hasn’t my member of Congress responded to my email message that I sent through their website or FCNL’s advocacy center?
A: New members of Congress get a lot of correspondence, and might not be fully staffed to until weeks after they are sworn in. We encourage proactive outreach to your member of Congress, but don’t be discouraged if it takes some time to hear back. And remember to always be polite.
Q: Should I take the first meeting I can get, or wait until the staffer is hired who handles the issue I want to discuss?
A: According to the Congressional Management Foundation, 66% of new member offices recommended waiting to request meetings with new members until staff are hired that focus on the issue your group would like to discuss. There’s no harm in requesting early, especially if you can get a meeting with your new member of Congress themselves, but know that sometimes it is worth the wait!