Meeting in Washington

 Key Steps

Members of Congress welcome conversations with their constituents, particularly with influential community leaders such as college presidents, if their daily schedules permit. Many members also are pleased to receive visits from the leaders of their alma maters, or of the institutions their children attend.

Congressional offices on Capitol Hill are set up to accommodate meetings.  Even though heightened security measures has made access somewhat more formal in recent years, the halls of Congress are filled every weekday with constituents who have come to Washington to talk about pending legislation, or just to get acquainted with their congressional delegation and staff members.

Below is a guide to the key steps to meeting with Members of Congress


Scheduling the Appointment

To schedule a meeting with a member of Congress, contact the scheduler about a month in advance of your visit.  Confirm the name and office location of your Member of Congress.  Here is a task checklist:

  • Call the U.S. Capitol Switchboard (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative’s or senator’s office.
  • The office receptionist can suggest how best to reach the scheduler. 
  • When requesting a meeting through the scheduler, offer this information both verbally and in a written follow-up:
    • List of attendees and their affiliations.
    • The general topic of discussion or purpose of meeting. 
    • The length of time requested (in general, a maximum of 20 minutes will be allocated). 
    • Days and times when attendees are available to meet. 
    • A contact name, phone number, and e-mail address for communications about the meeting.  (Provide a cell phone number for any last-minute schedule changes.) 
  • The scheduler will generally review your meeting request with the member before committing to an appointment.
  • If the member is not available, the scheduler will likely ask if you’d like to meet with the appropriate staff member instead. You should say yes and meet with him or her. Staff are extremely important decision makers on behalf of the member – no matter how young and/or inexperienced they may appear. 

 

Preparing for Your Visit

Learn about the member(s) you will be visiting, in order to best frame your conversation. In particular, make note of the committees on which the member serves.  Here are some useful resources:

If the member of your congressional delegation sits on one of the committees that are especially important to NAICU, the member’s staff might also want to include the professional staff of that committee in your meeting.  In such meetings, it is best to focus on the specific education-related issues under the jurisdiction of that committee. NAICU can provide you with committee-specific talking points..  These key committees are:

           Senate Committee on Finance    House Committee on Ways and Means  
  Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions   House Committee on Education and the Workforce
  Senate Committee on the Budget   House Committee on the Budget
  Senate Commitee on Appropriations   House Committee on Appropriations
  Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs   House Commitee on Veterans' Affairs
 

Have a thorough understanding of the issues you present.  Think about real-life examples from your campus that relate to the issues you will discuss during your visits.
 

Meeting Logistics

  • Allow sufficient time to get to your first meeting on Capitol Hill.  Build in time for Washington traffic, passing through security, finding the office, etc.
  • Space your meetings to allow time for meetings that start late or run long, and for long walks.  Ideally, meetings should be no more frequent than one hour apart. 
  • Group your House and Senate visits, if at all possible, to avoid having to cross back and forth multiple times between the two sides of the Capitol. 
  • Recognize that the member could be called away on short notice, so be prepared to offer a brief “elevator speech” version of the key points you hope to make. 
  • It’s possible that the member may have to cancel at the last minute because of schedule changes, and may arrange for you to meet with a staff member instead.  You still can successfully make your case with the staff member.   
  • For larger groups making joint visits, you may need to split into smaller sub-groups to cover all the appointments. 
  • If there are multiple participants in a visit, agree in advance who will take the lead. Make sure that constituents or presidents from the home state or district with special relations to the Member are given priority. 
  • With a large group, it is usually best to designate just a few people to make the presentation, while noting that the others are available to answer specific questions. 
  • The complete opening remarks should take no more than 3-5 minutes for a 20 minute meeting.  The shorter, the better.
  • Leave plenty of time for the Member to talk and ask questions.

Here is the list of key buildings and locations, including addresses, to assist with navigating Capitol Hill using a map application on a cell phone or tablet:

U.S. House of Representatives

    

U.S. Senate

    

Other

Rayburn House Office Building
50 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20515

 

Russell Senate Office Building
2 Constitution Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002

 

Capitol Visitors Center
First & East Capitol St. SE
Washington, DC 20004

Longworth House Office Building
15 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20515

 

Dirksen Senate Office Building
100 Constitution Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20002

 

 

Cannon House Office Building
25 Independence Ave. SE
Washington, DC 20003

 

Hart Senate Office Building
150 Constitution Ave. NE
Washington, DC 20510

 

 

         

Metro Station  (House)

 

Metro Station  (Senate)

 

 

Capitol South Metro
(Orange/Blue lines)
307 First Street SE
Washington, DC 20003

 

Union Station Metro
(Red line)
701 First St. NE
Washington, DC 20002

 

 


The Conversation

Your meeting time will be limited, so keep your message simple and straightforward.  Don’t try to package too many messages into a single meeting.  Also: 

  • Relate your cause to the interests of the member.
  • Thank the member for any past support for student aid funding and tax benefits, along with any specialized issue you know they have been involved in. 
  • Frame your issue within a broader public policy context. 
  • Bring examples from your campus to support your position. 
  • Be clear, concise, and consistent. Target 3 minutes for opening remarks.
  • If there is an action you wish to member to take, be specific in making the request. 
  • Be prepared to respond to questions about the issues you raise.  If you don’t know the answer to a specific question, suggest where the information may be found or offer to provide it promptly after your visit.
  • Leave behind a brief written summary of the points you’ve made.  NAICU's website contains a significant number of resources, including Federal Higher Education Issues, Key Facts, Private Colleges: FactFile, and the Students First Initiative.
  • Thank them for their time. 
 

Final Chapter

After the meeting, please remember to:

  • Write a brief note thanking those with whom you met (e-mail works well for staff). Remember to include any additional information or material you promised during the conversation.
  • Invite members and staff to campus.  (See NAICU's Home and Away project) 
  • Please let us know how your meeting went, complete a Hill Visit Feedback Form. 
  
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