The partial government shutdown stretched into its 20th day on Friday as funding negotiations between Congressional leaders and the president continued to stall. While the Senate has passed legislation granting furloughed federal workers back pay once the shutdown is over, they've yet to act on any of the piecemeal spending bills recently passed by the House — meaning we might be stuck in this shutdown for a while. But there's something you can do to make your voice heard in Washington — pick up the phone. Indeed, it's a lot easier than you might imagine to call your senator with your concerns about the shutdown.
Contacting those tasked with representing you in Congress can be one of the best ways to make your voice heard in Washington. But did you know that calling your elected officials and urging them to act is also your constitutional right? While the First Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees us a lot of well-publicized rights — such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and the freedom of assembly — it also protects our right to call on the government to remedy any grievances we may have.
"Congress shall make no law ... abridging the freedom ... to petition the government for a redress of grievances," the First Amendment states.
Of course, petitioning the government can look a lot of different ways: You could gather signatures for a formal petition, call, write, email, fax, or even tweet at your senators. But according to former congressional staffer Emily Ellsworth, phone calls are said to be an especially effective means of spurring legislative action. In fact, some Democratic representatives are urging their constituents to call their se nators and demand a vote.
Now, before you pick up the phone, you'll want to know exactly where your senators stands on the ongoing government shutdown. Have they been pushing Senate leaders to bring legislation that would effectively end the partial government shutdown to the floor for a vote or do they support the president's refusal to veto any spending bill that doesn't fully fund his border wall? A bit of Googling will quickly tell you where they stand.
If their opinion on the ongoing government shutdown differs from yours, you'll want to have a few brief points ready to respectfully argue that they rethink their position. If they already appear to be on the same page as you, it's still worth calling to communicate your support for their position and urging them to do more.
What's more, if you're looking to see the government fully funded and back up and running, you could also urge your senator to vote against any motion to proceed on legislation that is not aimed at ending the shutdown and reopening the government. Those interested in pursuing such a strategy, can peep this sample call script put together by Indivisible.
Now, actually calling your senator is likely easier than you may have thought. To begin, you'll need to know who your senators are and how you can get in touch with them. That's where this handy online Senate directory list comes into play. Simply select the state you live in and you'll be given to the name, address, website, and phone numbers of your two state senators. Then, just pick up the phone and dial!
It's unlikely that you'll be able to speak directly with your senator (although you never know). Instead, you'll most likely be speak with a member of their staff or be directed to leave a voice message. In either case, let it be known up front that you're a constituent. Then, dive in to your concerns and thoughts about the ongoing government shutdown.
Of course, Congress would face some challenges if it moved to reopen the government on its own. Traditionally, any legislation passed by Congress needs the president's signature unless Congress opts to override a presidential veto. Still calling your senators can be an important and effective way of getting your voice heard in government. So do a bit of research, jot down a few notes, take a deep breath, and pick up the phone.