18 February 2021

Action Alert: Interact with Congress Through Constituent Requests

TAKE ACTION BY COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR MEMBERS OF CONGRESS!

Constituent Appropriations Requests

Requests for Appropriations

There is an annual process where all Senators and Representatives can propose what their individual offices want in each year's appropriations bill. The requests are based on input by constituents and lobbyists. Each office has its own webform and deadline to collect this input. High-ranking members get the most weight, but multiple low-ranking members are able to collectively make an impact. The information below (and more background) is included in this YouTube video.

How to Make a Request

Each office has its own form. To find them:

  • Search “[Rep/Sen] [Name] Appropriations Request Form”
  • The form will be part of your Congressperson’s official website; check the URL
  • You can fill out three forms: one Representative and two Senators

The forms ask for identifying information to make sure you are their constituent. Further down the form, there will be more text boxes you need to fill in, keep reading for tips on how to answer them. If you run into a box that is not like any of those on the previous slides, email public.policy@aas.org and we can help. We provide examples of asks below, but you can just ask them to support science funding in general or your research.

How to Fill the Request Form

Here is a list of commonly used items on the forms, in bold, and how to answer them:

  • You are the point of contact, provide your personal information. Contact your institution's government affairs office to let them know you are submitting this. When filling out appropriations requests, make sure your contact information is not university affiliated. Use your personal contact information, e.g. your home address and phone number. You can mention the university if you are asked for your employer, but state that you are not speaking on behalf of your employer, you are only advocating as an individual. Organization is the AAS (spelled out). You can use this organization info:

    • American Astronomical Society

    • 1667 K St NW, Suite 800

    • Washington DC 20006

    • +1 202-328-2010 x113 | public.policy@aas.org

  • Dollar amounts are funding/budget requests (increase). A bill language request is something like adding text about Europa Clipper to the appropriations bill or removal/omission of language. You must submit these separately so you would fill out the form twice.

  • Title/name of your request is just a one-sentence (max) description of the ask.

  • For NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF), the appropriations subcommittee is Commerce, Justice, and Science. For the Department of Energy (DOE), the appropriations subcommittee is Energy and Water.

  • The account is the name of the appropriations line item (for example, NASA SMD Planetary Science R&A). This is for funding requests only, leave blank for language requests. 

  • They may ask for the President's Budget Request and FY 2021 numbers. Those can be found on this page.

  • This is NOT Direct/Mandatory Spending, this is Discretionary Spending.

  • Project Number and Designated Offset can be left blank.

  • Federal agency/office is NASA, NSF, or DOE (depends on which one you are asking for).

  • Program Element is for Defense only, you can skip that.

  • There should be space to describe the ask and how it benefits the state/district. Talk about why it matters to you as their constituent and your employer here.

  • The office will not be “briefed” on the issues unless you plan on meeting with them.

The General Message

Strong, sustained support of basic research driven by scientific community consensus prioritization. These investments benefit me/my research group and thus the district/state. (Be as specific as possible about direct benefits. Tell a good, concise story.)

What Do You Want the Member to Do?

Examples:

  • Hold hearings
  • Co-sponsor legislation
  • Offer an amendment to legislation
  • Support a nominee
  • Join a Dear Colleague letter
  • Request appropriations language
  • Join a caucus

The Message / The Ask

Issue: FY 2022 Appropriations

  • NASA Science Mission Directorate: $9 billion (+23%)
  • NSF: $10 billion (+18%)
  • DOE Office of Science: $7.7 billion (+10%)

Issue: COVID Relief

  • Pass COVID Relief Package that includes help for researchers;
  • The Research Investment to Spark the Economy (RISE) Act is being reintroduced by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO) and Rep. Fred Upton (R-MI) as H.R. 869. This bill would authorize $26 billion in relief funding for federal science agencies to support researchers affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The funds could be used to enable graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, and Principal Investigators to complete work that was disrupted by COVID-19 or extend the training or employment of researchers on an existing research project for up to two years because of the disruption of the job market.

Other Potential Issues

  • How are you funded?
  • What research-related issues do you care about?

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