September 2010 U.S. Poverty Action
Set Up Virtual Lobby Meetings to Protect Working Families
Use an EPIC Laser Talk to Preserve EITC and CTC Improvements
Members of Congress and their aides will do conference calls or teleconferences with constituents on pertinent issues, sometimes called “virtual meetings.” This is a powerful tool to help your group push Congress to make recent improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) permanent. Use the EPIC Laser Talk format to script out your argument for your meeting. Use this example to get you started:
September Will Be a Critical Month on Tax Policy
After months of meetings, phone calls, letters, and e-mails, our work on protecting working families through the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) comes down to this. Later this month, the Senate is expected to bring to the floor a bill extending tax cuts for the low- and middle -income Americans. The House is also working on a bill but they are unlikely to act before the Senate. The details of the Senate are unknown at this point and can change at any time, but it is expected to include an extension of the low-income and middle class tax cuts, and possibly a temporary extension for the tax cuts for the wealthy as well. This bill is being written by key members of the Senate Finance Committee, particularly Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT), with input from Senate leadership and others; the House bill will be written by House Ways and Means leaders. However, we do not know if the 2009 improvements to the EITC and CTC will be included and if they are, how long they will last. This is why our work this month (and the months leading up to this) is so important. We must make sure that these EITC and CTC improvements are included in the bill that is brought to the Senate floor, and then are a priority in final tax negotiations.
Because of the increased use of the Senate filibuster, which requires 60 votes to overcome, any changes to the base tax bill that comes to the Senate floor will likely require 60 votes to pass. This includes adding provisions in or taking them out. Therefore, if the EITC and CTC provisions are already in the bill, it will take 60 votes to remove them, which would be difficult as there are likely 40 senators who would block such a move. However, if these provisions are not included in the base bill, it will likely take 60 votes to add them in, which will also be difficult. Therefore, they must be in that base bill.
Follow Through on our Summer Goals: Has Your Representative and Senators Weighed in with the Key Decisionmakers Directly?
As you know, over the last few months we have been working toward the following goals:
SENATE GOAL: At least six confirmed direct conversations between senators and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and/or Ranking Members Charles Grassley (R-IA) and at last fifteen letters sent to Sens. Baucus and Grassley or staff to staff contacts between your MoC’s tax staff and Senate Finance Committee staff.
HOUSE GOAL: At least ten confirmed direct conversations between representatives and House Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI-12) and/or Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI-4) and at least twenty letters sent to Reps. Levin and Camp or staff to staff contacts between your Member of Congress (MoC)’s tax staff and House Ways and Means Committee staff.
When our members of Congress talk to tax leaders in the House and Senate directly, it ensures that EITC and CTC improvements are part of any base tax bill in both chambers. When these provisions are assumed to be a part of the whole package, there is a far better chance they will be preserved in a final bill. And, if House and Senate leaders are negotiating over a final bill and there is pressure to remove the EITC and CTC, they're more apt to do the right thing for low-income working families if they have the support of their colleagues.
Set Up Virtual Lobby Meetings with Your Group: A How To
Let’s see things through at this critical time by making a big impact with legislators in September. Contact your House and Senate offices and request a telephone or teleconference meeting with your members of Congress (MoCs) and/or their tax aides. Most of you have made individual contacts with MoCs and aides the last few months; now plan to magnify your impact by doing a virtual lobby meeting with your entire RESULTS group. These repeated contacts with offices are key to our success. At a recent lobby meeting in Iowa, a local Senate aide told the RESULTS group members that it is not enough to contact them once and hope that the rightness of your cause will change minds. Instead, it is persistence and a willingness not to let up that makes the difference. The squeaky wheel does indeed get the grease.
Contact the scheduler in your House and Senate offices and request a conference call meeting with your members of Congress. Some offices will have a conference call number available to use (if either your group or the office cannot call the other directly for the meeting), otherwise you can set up a free conference call number at http://www.freeconferencecall.com/. Contact the tax aides for your members of Congress and ask that they participate as well, or if your MoC is unavailable, set up group conference calls with the aides directly. You can find scheduler and aide information at http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/officials/.
Once your meeting is scheduled, meet with your group beforehand to prepare using the 2010 Lobby Planning Form and bring it to your meeting. Because of the importance of this call with regard to the timing of the tax bill, you want to make a strong case for action. Being prepared will ensure that you do. Here are some key steps in your planning:
1. Go through each section of the form and assign tasks for the members of your group who plan to speak.
2. Plan and write out what you want to say. Be sure to use the EPIC Laser Talk format to structure your opening remarks. Use the talking points above to get started but include personal stories, value statements, and or statistics that resonate with you, if possible.
3. Be ready for questions or objections. Our Domestic Legislative Handbook (pdf)/(Word) from this year's International Conference has some common objections and how to respond. And, be ready to push further when you hear that the member of Congress supports EITC and CTC but is vague on what they will do.
4. Practice and role play your meeting beforehand. You may have limited time to meet with your MoCs and their aides. By practicing ahead of time, you help ensure that your agenda is followed and that your message is clear, concise, and powerful.
5. In your meeting, stick to your agenda. You don’t want to have several people trying to speak at once, especially over the phone. Also, if your MoC or aide asks a question, designate a specific person(s) ahead of time to answer.
6. Follow up! Our key request is a heavy lift: getting our members of Congress to directly and proactively speak to their peers to voice support for certain policies is not as simple as cosponsoring a bill or voting for a bill. It will take persistence with the tax staff to make it happen.
See our July Action, as well as our Activist Milestone: Meeting with Members of Congress with for other tips on having an effective lobby meeting. In your meeting, focus on whether your members of Congress have followed through on the above requests. We need for them to be talking to tax committee leaders, caucus leaders, and their colleagues about the importance of the ARRA expansions of the EITC and CTC for working families. Press until you get confirmation they’ve done so.