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Communicating with Your Senators and Congressmen

The most popular choice of communication between members of Congress and their constituents is the letter. Annually on Capitol Hill, millions of letters arrive. Thus, the differences between success and failure to members of Congress is the art of writing effective letters.

Ask for Action: Simple and Short — When writing one should personally address a letter to a member of Congress. The mail that is received by the Capital Hill Offices is routed by the staff to the representative. Those that the staff deem attention are the only letters to reach the member. Length is one of the criteria that will be used in deciding whether a letter is even seen by a Congressman. For example, almost never qualifying for the member's attention is a five-page, single-spaced letter. A regular business letter not exceeding two pages in length is the best format. Also, often receiving special attention are handwritten letters. The letter should always include a request for action and is brief and to the point

In most letters to the Hill, the following elements should be included:

1. Issue description

2. Current law status and/or legislation pending

3. On the member's constituency, the effect of passage or defeat of legislation

4. With regard to the issue, your position

5. On the member's past request for specific action

6. On this issue, reaffirmation of your interest in his position

This list of helpful suggestions will help improve the effectiveness of the letter writing a representative.

1. In the first paragraph of the letter, state the purpose for writing. Identify it accordingly, for example, House Bill: H.R. _____, Senate Bill: S. _____ if the letter pertains to a specific piece of legislation.

2. Use examples to support your position and include key information as well as being courteous and keeping to the point.

3. If possible keep the letter to one page, addressing only one issue in each letter.

How to Address your Correspondence:

To a Senator

The Honorable (Full Name)

United States Senate

Washington D.C. 20510

Dear Senator (Last Name):

To a Representative

The Honorable (Full Name)

United States House of Representatives

Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Representative (Last Name):

It is proper to address the Chair of a Committee or the Speaker of the House as

Dear Madam Chairwoman or Mr. Chairman or Dear Mr. Speaker

 
A Sample Letter to a Representative

The Honorable (full name)
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Representative (last name):

To the Agriculture Appropriations Bill (H.S. 4461), Representative Tom Coburn (R-Oklahoma) is offering an amendment that would prohibit the spending of public funds by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the approval of RU-486 as well as for marketing the drug in the United States.

Several usual side effects are associated with the abortion-inducing chemical such as severe cramps, nausea, prolonged heavy bleeding, diarrhea, headaches, skin rashes and vomiting. Ten days is the average duration of bleeding and in some cases has lasted as long as 43 days. A dilation and curettage (D & C) is required to stop the bleeding in five percent of all women because they bleed so severely. Some women require a blood transfusion.

Furthermore, severe disabilities can result in babies who survive the abortion as well as in later offspring of women who have had RU-486 abortions. In some cases, the pill can injure and even kill the women taking the drug.

Since this is a matter of some urgency, I would appreciate hearing from you soon about your feelings on this subject. A a constituent, I encourage you to support the amendment being offered by Representative Coburn to the Agriculture Appropriations Bill (H.R. 4461). Thank you for your consideration to support the Coburn amendment.

Sincerely,
Sign your name

NOTE: It is advisable to send a second letter, if a particular member of Congress does not respond to your letter within two to three weeks mentioning the first correspondence and again requesting an answer. It is not unusual for smaller offices to be overwhelmed with correspondence — some congressional offices are more efficient than others.

Congressional E-Mail

An E-mail address that ends in house.gov or senate.gov is possessed by many members of Congress. A web-based mail system known as "Write Your Representative" is used by members whose address is listed as legislator.com.

The following format should be used in "the body" of your message:

Your Name

Address

City, State Zip Code

Dear (Title)(Last Name):

(Place your message here)

For more information about resources for sending E-mail message to Congress, click here.

Return to the Legislative Information Center.

 

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