Guide to Participating in a Congressional Town Hall Meeting: Tips, Sample Questions and Talking Points
Funding for biomedical research is under attack in the name of deficit reduction. Without bipartisan action in Washington, NIH is slated to receive an eight to 10 percent cut. This would result in funding an estimated 2,400 fewer research project grants, leaving a lot of good science aside and delaying the opportunity for new treatments and cures. Jobs will be lost, and services will be eliminated.
Members of Congress know what they need to do to stop these cuts known in Washington as the "sequester." They just haven't yet mustered the political will to work together and make tough decisions. It's time to hold our lawmakers accountable. Let them know that balancing the budget takes a balanced approach—they can't and shouldn't do it by cutting essential jobs and services alone.
Members of Congress often host "Congressional Town Hall Meetings" when they are back home as a way to hear directly from their constituents.
These events offer an excellent opportunity to interact directly with Members of Congress and urge them to adopt a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to essential jobs and services.
Prepare for the Meeting
- Visit your Member of Congress' website, Facebook page or Twitter feed and read their latest press releases, speeches, newsletters, and/or tweets to find out how they've voted recently and which issues they are currently following.
- Write down 1 or 2 brief questions that you would like to ask your Member of Congress (samples provided below). Make sure they are focused on a specific subject (like the impact of cuts on your priority) or piece of legislation (like the Budget Control Act). Do not include long introductory statements in your questions. Just state your name and the town where you live.
- Practice asking your question(s) until you can get through it in 25 seconds or less.
- Get directions to the meeting and research nearby parking and/or public transportation options.
Day of the Meeting
- Arrive a few minutes early and make sure you have your questions ready.
- Sign-in if asked to do so by the congressperson's staff. Introduce yourself to the staff and offer your business card or other contact information.
- Ask if you need to sign-up in advance to ask a question.
- Sit in the front of the audience. If microphones are set up in the aisle, sit as close to the aisle as possible so you can quickly get to the microphone when it is time to ask questions.
- Silence your cell phone, PDA, and other electronic devices.
- This March, medical research will face deep cuts. For example, NIH stands to be cut 8.4 percent and will be unable to fund 2,300 research project grants.
- Members of Congress seem to agree these cuts will be devastating, but they can't agree on how to avoid them.
- Do you understand how these cuts will be harmful to this community and your constituents?
- Do you support a balanced approach to deficit reduction, as all experts have recommended?
- Will you work with your colleagues to find a balanced approach and avoid these cuts?
- Can I count on your support for medical research?
Sample Talking Points
Help spread the word! Use these talking points for conversations with lawmakers, as well as your family members, colleagues, friends, neighbors, and fellow town hall participants!
- This March, medical research will face deep cuts along with other essential jobs and services such as education, public safety, and air traffic control.
- Lawmakers and economists agree that these cuts will be devastating to the nation and our fragile economy.
- For medical research specifically, these cuts will mean 2,300 fewer research project grants funded.
- Since 2010, these and other core programs and services have borne the brunt of deficit reduction efforts. These programs are not the drivers of the deficit—in fact even completely eliminating these programs would not balance the budget.
- A bevy of independent experts agree we need a balanced approach to deficit reduction to balance the budget and avoid these cuts.
- Members of Congress must work together to find a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to essential jobs and services such as medical research.
- Only through a balanced approach can we balance the budget and restore the nation's economic stability.
Modeled from the Coalition for Health Funding Guide to Participating in a Congressional Town Hall Meeting.
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