Posts tagged ‘congressional committees’

The Life Cycle of Lobbying

There is a distinctive life cycle in lobbying. The moment a bill is introduced, interest groups that track that issue will begin lobbying the legislation related to it. Often, reporters monitor congressional committee consideration quite closely and will pose questions to members of Congress regarding their position on that legislation. As increased public awareness is directed to the measure as a result of the media and interest groups, constituents learn more about the legislation and will then ask their own members of Congress to identify their position.

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Most members of Congress have decided their position on a piece of legislation by the time a bill moves to the floor. As a result, communications must be made as early as possible within the legislative process. The astute lobbyist begins the communications process before a member formulates their position on a bill.

You will have far more influence shaping member votes when you concentrate your efforts early in the legislative cycle. However, even when you are able to achieve victories early on this is not an indication that you can stop working. Lobbying, press and constituent pressures intensify immediately before a vote and can result in significant changes in position as well as the degree of support offered to legislation.

Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna GelakThe first stage of the lobbying life cycle involves planning and strategy. This includes surveys, research and analysis of issues. The second stage involves education and advocacy, including testimony, letters to Capitol Hill, personal visits, advertisements, emails and mobilizing grassroots efforts. During the third stage, you work on issue maintenance. At this stage you track developments in states as well as courts, while keeping an eye on public opinion.

The all important vote will occur during this final stage. During this stage, you focus on determining the next step. This can include whether the measure will move to the other chamber, joint House-Senate Conference Committee, Presidential consideration, implementation, etc.

To learn more about the lobbying and advocacy process, consider TheCapitol.Net’s 1-day course, Strategies for Working with Congress: Effective Communication and Advocacy on Capitol Hill and their 3-day Capitol Hill Workshop.

Reference: Lobbying and Advocacy, by Deanna Gelak, Section 4.36 The Principle of Early Intervention: the Life Cycle of Lobbying

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How Witnesses Are Selected to Testify Before Congress

In many instances, witnesses who testify before Congress were invited to do so. In other cases, witnesses have offered to testify. The other ways in which witnesses are selected to testify before Congress are by recommendation and under subpoena.

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On occasion, congressional committees consider or request recommendations made by individuals and organizations in the public and private sectors. Committees are primarily interested in selecting witnesses that are able to provide unique or special knowledge, background, expertise or perspectives. Prior to actually inviting a witness to testify, the committee will occasionally cast a wide net to be certain they are selecting the most effective witnesses regarding the subject matter of the hearing.

Generally, the majority of witnesses who appear before a congressionalTestifying Before Congress, by William LaForge hearing have been invited by the committee chair or sometimes by the ranking minority chair. Many witnesses who appear before a committee hearing have requested to testify and their appearance is considered to be both an opportunity and a privilege.

In some cases, a committee may believe a prospective witness is able to provide needed perspective on an issue but who might not agree to appear before the committee voluntarily. Committees may compel the appearance of witnesses through the issuance of a subpoena. The authority for the subpoena power in the House of Representatives is Rule XI, clause 2(m) and in the Senate, Rule XXVI, paragraph 1. Committees also have the power to subpoena records and documents that may be associated with any compelled testimony of a witness who has been subpoenaed.

The issuance of a subpoena requires either a majority approval by members of the committee or a decision of the chair, based on committee rules. For the most part, subpoenas are issued rarely and when they are issued they are typically associated with investigative hearings.

To learn more about testifying before Congress, see TheCapitol.Net’s course Preparing and Delivering Congressional Testimony and its Capitol Learning Audio Course, Tips, Tactics & Techniques for Writing Congressional Testimony.

Reference: Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge, Sections 2.26-2.27 Selection of Witnesses

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What Witnesses at Congressional Hearings Need to Watch Out For

What to Watch Out For During the Hearing

Members of Congress often have strong partisan viewpoints or positions on issues, programs, and legislative initiatives, and they frequently announce, discuss, and stake out those positions at a committee hearing. It is important for a witness to be as politically savvy as possible when going before a committee. This means seeing political and issue partisanship for what it is, and understanding how it affects members of the committee and their perspectives, as well as the dynamics of a hearing.

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Based on party politics or personal ideology, committee members often have solidly established positions and viewpoints on issues to the extent that they are unable or unwilling to hear or consider new or additional information or differing perspectives. If you happen to confront that type of situation at your hearing, do not let it deter you from the goal, purpose, and flow of your testimony and answers.
Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge
During the preparation for a hearing, witnesses are encouraged to conduct a political analysis of the issue that will be the subject of a hearing, as well as to glean a complete understanding of the interests and issues near and dear to the committee and its members. If a witness has included those activities in preparation for a hearing, she or he can rely on that information in dealing with committee members who may have a different viewpoint or tend to speak or ask questions in an adversarial or even hostile manner.

During a hearing, particularly in introductory remarks by the chair and committee members, as well as during the question-and-answer period, individual viewpoints of committee members quite often emerge, and witnesses must often engage and interact with committee members on those topics. Understanding the partisan features and issues of a committee and its makeup will allow a witness to engage more productively, without either being overly concerned about trying to convert a member on his or her thinking about an entrenched policy or issue position, or marginalizing or disregarding a committee member’s perspective. From the moment a hearing begins, a witness should be prepared for, and take notice of, any partisanship that may surface in the hearing’s deliberations. This is particularly true because Congress has evolved into a more partisan, and sometimes even contentious, institution, and much of the attendant drama plays out in the context of committee hearings.

If a witness has concerns or questions about a political or partisan matter, that matter should be discussed with committee staff prior to the hearing. A witness should not address partisan issues during a hearing, nor engage in taking sides on political or partisan issues beyond the subject of the hearing and the purpose of the testimony.

“Preparing A Witness For A Congressional Committee Hearing, Part II” from Testifying Before Congress, by William LaForge

Part I of this article is here.

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