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OUR PERSPECTIVES

How to Navigate Congressional Dysfunction



As the House of Representatives has paused legislative business while it elects (or doesn’t elect) a new Speaker of the House, the natural inclination for some may be to slow down advocacy efforts and effectively match the pace of the House. With a crowded agenda at the end of the year (now just weeks away in terms of legislative days) and a 2024 election that will inevitably take some of the attention away from policy, slowing down advocacy could come with a significant opportunity cost – especially for those hoping to advance issues this year. Here are three dynamics that should be considered for any existing advocacy campaign:


Congress Will Soon Be Distracted with Big End-of-year Issues: As soon as the new Speaker is elected, Congress will turn to the Fiscal Year 2024 funding (which needs to be resolved or extended by November 17th). Assuming that is dealt with on time (and that may be a big assumption at this point), they will need to pivot to support for Israel and Ukraine, as well as the Farm Bill, FAA Reauthorization, and the National Defense Authorization Act – each one a significant legislative lift. The reality is that once the House returns to a more functional state, they will have a ton to do and issues may get lost. Advocacy campaigns should be using this slower period to work with policymakers on their issues, build support, and identify champions who can navigate the noisy and crowded legislative landscape expected towards the end of year.


Congress is on Hold, Not on Vacation: There are constitutional limitations around what the House can and cannot do without a fully elected Speaker, but policymakers and staff are still on Capitol Hill and working. In many cases, they now have more time to focus on other issues while they wait for a Speaker vote. This is a great time to connect with key offices that are less busy than usual and do work that needs to be done before the robust policy agenda picks up again.


It is a Good Time for Well-Positioned Communications: If your advocacy campaign has a communications component, this is no time to go silent. With everyone closely watching new reports and always on their mobile devices, placing an op-ed or building a digital marketing effort is still effective even though Congress is not voting on legislation. Do not make the mistake of waiting until the House is in full policy mode (as it will be a much noisier environment and policymakers will be distracted). An effective communications campaign to support legislative issues can be as effective as ever right now.


The current dysfunction in the House should not be interpreted as a holding period for all policy matters. In some cases, this provides more opportunity (with less competition) to connect with policymakers and their teams on issues. If you wait until the House is more functional, it may be too late.

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