September 8, 2016
Congress does two things well, nothing and overreact … or so it has been said. Between summer recess and the need to fund the government before the start of the new fiscal year on October 1, August and September are prime examples of this half-joking statement.
Earlier this week, Congress returned to session after its seven-week summer recess. The main tasks before it are to keep the government open (i.e. funded), and pass some type of Zika funding. The next few September weeks will likely entail some drama and plenty of ever-changing predictions as to when and how these tasks will be completed – and at what cost in financial and political capital. The sooner all that concludes, the sooner members can return home to campaign.
Needless to say, officials in Washington are polarized, unpopular and nervous about the November election.
Their minds are on the tasks right before them, possibly doing some posturing for a media hit, and little else. They want to get home as quickly as possible to protect their jobs. Now, before we are too quick to judge, how laser-focused would our minds be if our jobs were on the line – especially if we still had personal goals we wanted to achieve in those jobs!?
Since their minds are more preoccupied than usual, advocates using these weeks of session to make their case should be as message-focused, time-efficient and district-specific as ever.
Advocates should also understand that they may not receive a response before November or be told to check-in after the election, or even in the new Congress. Some issues a member may want to get off his plate as quickly as possible, while others will not be triaged to the top of the pile.
Furthermore, as tempting as it may be to bring up the election, remember that in an official meeting, the political side of matters should not be discussed. This cycle, with everything even more topsy-turvy than usual, that may even be for the best!
If confronted with a political discussion, it may be wise to play it safe and go with “it sure is an interesting election,” or one of my favorite topic changes, “at least we can all back the Pack, right!?”