I. We Killed Repeal. What’s Next?
We did it! Through people power, we killed the efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act! At least for now, and just by one vote. We have lots of work ahead of us.
All members of Congress are home for the August recess. They’ll be in district hosting town halls, public events, and meeting with their constituents. When they come back in September, they’ll be voting on a number of pieces of legislation, as well as the federal budget. The Republican fight to dismantle the social safety net, including health care, funding for Medicaid and food stamps, is not over. Will you take the pledge to be active during #ResistanceRecess to #ProtectOurCare and the #HIVBudget?
What you can do:
- Familiarize yourself with the voting record of your members of Congress. Check out how your Representative and Senators voted on the various versions of the health care bills here: House vote on American Health Care Act and Senate votes on 3 versions of ACA repeal. You will want to thank legislators who voted against repeal, and let those who voted in favor of it know how you feel.
- Figure out if you are in the district of a member of the appropriations committee. This is the committee that makes decisions on budget priorities. (Still not sure who represents you in Congress? Find out here.) You can find all the members of the House Appropriations Committee here and the members of the full Senate Committee on Appropriations here.
- Be aware that there are many subcommittees of the Appropriations Committees in both houses of Congress. That means that your members of Congress may or may not be directly involved with budgeting for the issues you are most interested in. You can find subcommittee members from the page linked above for the House, or on this page for the Senate.
- If your Representative and/or Senators are part of their Appropriations Committee, be sure to know which subcommittee they serve on, and hit hard on issues addressed by those subcommittees (if relevant). Health & Human Services is a big target this month (see issue resources for more).
- Check out these helpful videos from Indivisible for tips on how to maximize your influence during the August recess!
II. Issue Resources
While there are a great many issues that affect us collectively and individually, PWN-USA has identified four key areas with the potential to cause big impact to people living with HIV and our community: health care, budget, the domestic HIV program and the social safety net, which includes specific programs such as SNAP (food stamps), housing assistance, social security, Medicaid and Medicare, and others.
III. Ways to Take Action & Resources to Do It
Find local events.
Many members of Congress use recess as an opportunity to connect with and hear from constituents at home. In fact, that’s exactly what they are supposed to do. You can check these listings of events to see if there is something already planned in your area:
- Families USA events calendar and toolkit with lots of great info for talking about health care
- MoveOn’s Resistance Recess page has lots of upcoming events
- Town Hall Project events calendar
- If you are on Facebook, make sure that you join or follow local political groups such as the local Democratic and Republican party, as well as organizing groups like Indivisible, Rise Up, or MoveOn. That way, you will see when they post events. Pretty much all protests, town halls and other events are publicized on Facebook.
2. If your Senator is holding a town hall or making a public appearance at an event, plan to show up and “bird-dog” them.
What is bird-dogging? Basically, the goal of bird-dogging is to compel your elected officials (in this case, Senators), to answer questions publicly in front of their constituents, voters, and the media. Bird-dogging is fun and easy! Just show up at local events and make sure you are ready to ask them tough questions on the issues that matter most to you. Quick tips when bird-dogging:
- Arrive at the event early
- Don’t wear signs or clothing that give you away – you might not be called on to ask your question
- Note: you can always wear a T-shirt under a jacket or sweatshirt and take off a layer later once you’ve asked your question!
- Be prepared to talk briefly about how the issue you’re addressing (e.g., budget priorities, health care, funding for programs for people with disabilities, etc.) affect you or your loved ones.
- Be prepared with a specific Yes or No question: e.g.,
- Can I count on you to vote to protect Medicaid funding from cuts?
- Can I count on you to work in a bipartisan way to strengthen and improve the Affordable Care Act?
- Here are some questions about health care you can ask at a town hall or public event (from Families USA)
3. Set up a meeting with your member of Congress’s office
Your Senators work for you. They are obligated to try and meet with constituents when requests are made. However, they are very busy (especially right now) and their calendars get full quickly. Since they will be home next week, this is the perfect time to reach out and set up a meeting.
A few quick tips–here’s a more comprehensive resource.
- Call as soon as possible to set up a meeting!
- Be as flexible as possible with day/time, as getting an appointment can be difficult.
- Be firm but polite in asking to meet with the actual member of Congress. If you can’t get a meeting with them in person, try to meet with the District Director or head of the district office. If neither is possible, try to meet with a staff person who works on that issue (e.g., health care). Remember that your goal is to build an ongoing relationship with these offices so be polite and respectful!
- Sample script for setting up your visit: Hello, my name is ________. I am a constituent of Senator ______ and I am (choose one: a person living with HIV/with organization ______/an advocate for people living with HIV). There are XXX people living with HIV in the state of [name of state]. I have a group of constituents who would like to meet with Senator _____ to discuss our concerns about the proposed Republican healthcare bill as soon as possible. Can we find a time to meet with the Senator next week?
Preparing for the Meeting:
Note: Most meetings are only about 15 minutes long, whether you are meeting with the Member or their staff. This means your group has to be organized and prepared to get your points across.
- Once you have an appointment set, get your group of advocates together and plan to show up for it! Be early.
- Plan what you are going to talk about for the purposes of setting up the meeting. Find background and talking points for your issue here.
Schedule a preparation meeting or phone call for your group to go over the talking points and who will share personal stories about how proposed legislation will affect them.
4. Organize an event
If there are no events scheduled near you, why not set one up yourself with a group of like-minded advocates? Organizing an event to put pressure on your Senator and call attention from media and social media can be as simple as getting a group of folks to stand outside their district office chanting with signs, or as elaborate as hosting an “empty-chair” town hall with guest speakers and partnering organizations for a Senator who refuses to hold a town hall. With a short timeline to organize and recruit participants, you will want to be realistic about how big you can or want to go. Much of that will depend on your existing connections with organizations, activist groups or individual activists, as well as how far ahead you are starting to plan.
MoveOn has an excellent guide for organizing rallies here that takes you step-by-step through the planning process, from choosing the time, date and location to planning an agenda. They also have a great guide for organizing a news conference here–though you will want to make your rally a news conference, so that folks still have a reason for being there if the media doesn’t show up.
If you want to organize a town hall for a Senator who refuses to hold one, more work will be required:
- Do your research: You will want to check your Senator’s website, Facebook page, Twitter and email communications to make sure they are not already scheduling public events. You should also call their district office and ask their staffers very directly if they are holding public events, and if not, why not.
- Push your Senator to hold a public event.
- Go public about your Senator’s refusal to meet with their constituents on social media, to reporters and with flyers.
- Hold a constituents’ town hall. Make sure to invite the Senator (and their staff, if the Senator can’t or won’t come), but plan for the Senator not to be present. You will need a venue, an outreach strategy for attendance and media, and speakers.
The Indivisible Guide has a detailed guide for planning constituents’ town halls here.
There are many different ways you can get media attention on health care. News organizations always love personal stories, so plan to have people who can speak to their firsthand experiences with your issue ready to talk to media. MoveOn has a great resource for how to get the media’s attention. Here are a few common ways:
- Media advisory and press calls for your event. If you are holding or helping organize a protest or constituents’ town hall, make sure the media knows about it to maximize the pressure it puts on your Senator. Here is a great sample media advisory.
- Submit an op-ed (opinion column) to your local newspaper. This is a very comprehensive guide to submitting op-eds. This resource from Indivisible also gives you great tips on writing and pitching op-eds.
- Submit a letter to the editor to your local newspaper. This resource from Indivisible will give you some great pointers. These should be shorter than an op-ed, usually about 150 words or fewer, and are best if they are written in response to an article the newspaper has already published. That should not be hard for most major issues. You can also use this tool from Families USA to submit a letter to the editor about health care.
6. Social Media
While social media alone will not turn the tide on any given issue, it’s a good way of letting others know what you’re advocating for and can help mobilize friends and acquaintances.
- Here are some great tips on social media for activism from SEIU.
- This page from Families USA has some shareable graphics about health care.
- Use the hashtags #ResistanceRecess and #HIVResists when you post!
- Follow PWN-USA on Facebook and on Twitter to stay up-to-date. Tag us in your photos and posts so we can help amplify and promote!