How Congress Works

Members of Congress and their staff are very busy and deal with many other issues in addition to your main issue of concern. They are "jacks of all trades, masters of few." Acknowledging the limitations on their time and resources and offering to be a source of information is vital and helps to build a strong working relationship.

  1. The legislative process is designed to be complex and deliberative, ensuring that all parties have an opportunity to comment on legislation. Legislation is considered in subcommittees, committees, and on the floor of both the Senate and House, and must be signed by the President. Most proposed laws are never acted upon and few ever become law.

  2. Staffers are often very influential in advising Members on votes.

  3. Members look to their colleagues for guidance; influencing one, in fact, may influence many.

  4. All government is political. Knowing how the system works improves your chances of influencing an outcome.

  5. Legislative proposals are weighed subjectively. Members of Congress not only consider proposals on their merits but also on these basic political questions:

  • How will the bill affect the legislator's re-election prospects?
  • Is this issue consistent with the legislator's previous votes/positions on related matters, and with his/her political and economic philosophies?
  • What would be the impact on the Member's local economy and jobs?
  • What are the constituents, the news media, and local interest groups recommending?
  • What are the legislative staff and advisors recommending?