Timing your congressional outreach

Congressional members are most often in their offices Monday through Thursday. Many spend weekends in their home district (and this usually involves travel on Friday). Generally Congress is in session three weeks each month, and in recess for the other week. Generally, Congress does not meet in August.

Members are in D.C. when they are in session.

A Congress is a two-year period of legislative business. A Congress lasts for two years, with each year constituting a different session. The current Congress is the 115th, and meets January 3, 2017 to January 3, 2019.

One of the reasons scientific associations, like the AMS, want to visit Congressional members is to give feedback on federal funding for science. Visits on this topic should be tied to the annual appropriations cycle. Appropriations are annual decisions made by Congress about how the federal government spends some of its money. In general, the appropriations process addresses the discretionary portion of the budget; non-discretionary, or mandatory spending, includes funds spent automatically according to formulas on programs such as Medicare and Social Security.

Advocating for other topics (such as STEM education, visa policies, broadening participation, cybersecurity) are not tied to an annual calendar. That said, it is best to talk about topics that are current with the office. If you are planning a Hill visit, we will help with choosing your issues and talking points which will depend on timing, your own interests, and your Members' committee assignments.

In an election year, many staffers from both the House and the Senate head out on the campaign trail by early May, and through election time their offices have little bandwidth on the Hill.

Recess can be a good time to introduce House staff to a new or complex issue even if it might be harder to schedule meetings as the staff travel and take vacation. Staff may have more time to sit and chat during recess and it is a very good time for relationship-building with your Congressional delegation staff.


American Mathematical Society