The 2020 presidential election and congressional contests are weighing heavily on the minds of policymakers and their staff as Congress tries to work through its remaining pre-election priorities.
In this environment, only must-achieve measures and those that can boost partisan campaigns are going to receive attention. Even that attention will be brief as it’ll be only weeks before Congress goes back out on the trail for the final stretch.
Now, we’ve seen how this cycle, with COVID-19 forcing more of lawmakers’ resources into digital, an exacerbated partisanship and greater penchant for political theater. That’s a challenge for advocates with time-sensitive priorities.
One way or another, we need to be prepared ahead of for any hearings, mark-ups, or floor votes on the possibility of a wide variety of issues — whether it’s your group’s priorities or not. Here are a few major topics that may see some movement which you can leverage for your own cause or campaign:
- Another major pandemic relief bill for those most impacted by health and economic needs.
- Funding for the United States Postal Service (USPS) to help ensure absentee ballots get delivered.
- Water resources and transportation reauthorization measures; and
- FY 2021 appropriations bills — or at least a continuing resolution until after the Nov. 3 election.
Tips for getting attention on your issue before Election Day:
- Seek out chairs, ranking members, or members that are influencers on the appropriate committees of jurisdiction.
- Localize information and talking points to the district or state level.
- Research members of the press who might consider your story newsworthy, or have your organization or an ally pen an opinion-editorial for public policy publications.
- Seek out members who are up for reelection in tough races.
- Seek out members who are either for or against the president’s agenda and make your connection on that basis.
- Scale your resources to fit the limited window of time.
- Set realistic expectations and goals for potential legislative outcomes for your stakeholders.
- Leverage executive action in the absence of congressional activity.
- Have preliminary 117th Congress conversations.
We can expect a bit of a break for the election in late September-early October that will allow for maximum last-minute campaigning. During that period, there is a multitude of different activities that our organizations should consider from Election Toolkits to GOTV programs.
Advocacy groups have a role to play in an area once solely dominated by candidates and their campaigns. After the election results are tallied, the lame-duck session that occurs will be another opportunity. But we wouldn’t count on that session being as robust as the pre-election legislating. If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s to expect the unexpected.
Mike Fulton directs the Washington, D.C., office of Asher Agency and teaches public affairs in the West Virginia University Reed College of Media’s Integrated Marketing Communications program.
Joshua Habursky is the Head of Federal Affairs at the Premium Cigar Association and Adjunct Professor at George Washington University’s Graduate School of Political Management.