FCNL Constituents are Heard on Capitol Hill
By Emily Temple on 12/18/2011 @ 09:44 AM
In the conversations I have had with FCNL constituents, from our November Annual Meeting to visits in Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania, one concern has been raised again and again: how can I be sure that my senators and representative are listening? How can I believe that advocacy and citizen lobbying is worth my time?
I am fortunate to work at FCNL and see the myriad of ways in which citizen lobbying can and does make a difference, but I can understand how it might feel doubtful far away from Capitol Hill. Whether it is calling your senator to vote no on legislation to authorize an increase in military budget, or to support diplomacy with Iran, even urging your representative to do something you are almost positive he or she will not do, lays the groundwork for future communication. Laying the groundwork may mean that you are developing a relationship, slowly but surely, with your representative’s staff, or it may mean that taking FCNL materials with you will give that office exposure to our work.
This fall, we urged you to lobby your in a variety of ways to cut $1 trillion from the Pentagon over the next ten years. We asked you to write to your Congressional offices, write letters to the editor, call about sign-on letters, and deliver information such as the Sustainable Defense Task Report in face-to-face meetings. The Sustainable Defense Task Report was released in June 2010 as the product of a bi-partisan research effort into how to cut non-essential Pentagon expenditures as a tool to reduce our deficit. Please read the report here for more information.
In the last few weeks, we have heard from several constituents about their positive lobbying experiences, as encouraged by us at FCNL. We recognize that many more of you lobbied and listened than we have heard from; thank you to all of you. The following examples illustrate that indeed your voices are heard in these offices and that each interaction, whether it be a meeting with a staffer, dropping off information, or a personalized letter, can feel worthwhile.
- One friend from Indianapolis wrote in to say that he had dropped off the Sustainable Defense Task Force Report with Senator Richard Lugar’s office to a very warm reception.
- A New York friend wrote to Senator Chuck Schumer about the Pentagon budget and forwarded the response she received to our office.
- Another constituent let us know that was able to schedule a meeting with Representative Nancy Pelosi’s staffer on the budget and delivered information on how Pentagon funding could be cut.
- In Minnesota, a constituent had a meeting with Representative Tim Walz himself to discuss cutting Pentagon spending. Like the constituent in Indianapolis, she was able to hand-deliver a copy of the Sustainable Defense Task Report during their meeting and discuss how support for veterans could be maintained while funding allocated to the Pentagon could be reduced.
These interactions illustrate a few of the many ways we are empowered as Americans. Despite the partisan state of Congress and a deeply wounded economy, these people were able to make their voices heard.
When I came to Washington, I thought it might be a difficult place to be optimistic. I have in fact become more hopeful since arriving in the capitol. The persistence and passion of our constituents is enough to inspire hope anywhere.
If and when you call the FCNL office, it just may be me you reach on the phone. I can tell you that members of congressional offices call us to ask for information, reports or opinions. I took a call recently from a senior staff member in a Senator’s office who was looking for information on Quakers to include in a speech for the Senator to deliver. Each of these interactions—even the ones that feel small—are extremely valuable.
Each moment is really another rung on the ladder of engagement and is critical to help move along our focused campaigns on pertinent issues like cutting the Pentagon budget. The relationships you, our constituents, build in communicating with congress are what will make the difference in limiting Pentagon spending and preserving funds for necessary domestic programs that create jobs, educate, and care for our communities.