James Middlebrook

Voicing our concerns to representatives in Congress is the best way to get action on the issues we care about. Whether you live in Washington, DC, planning to visit, or want to express your concerns from your home, here is a quick guide to attending congressional hearings and contacting your legislators.

Attending a Congressional Hearing

1) Find a hearing on a topic you’re interested in attending

Congressional hearings are open to the public. You can find a schedule of hearings for the Senate here and the House here. You may also watch proceedings live online. Attending or watching a hearing is a good way to determine if you approve of your representatives’ work.

2) Locate the hearing room

Most hearings do not actually take place in the Capitol. Both the Senate and the House have three office buildings each. The Senate office buildings (Russel, Dirksen, and Hart) are located on Constitution Ave on the north side of the Capitol. The House office buildings (Longworth, Cannon, and Rayburn) are located on Independence Ave on the south side of the Capitol. Hearings are listed with the name of the Congressional Office Building and room number (i.e., “SD-226,” for Senate Dirksen Office Building Room 226).

3) Arrive Early

Be prepared to wait in line. Seats are first come-first served and fill fast, arriving a half-hour early should ensure you a seat. However, for more popular hearings, you will need to arrive at least an hour beforehand to secure a seat. If you’re attending with a group, plan your time accordingly so you all will have space.

4) Bring a notepad and dress sharp

Taking notes during a hearing is a good way to stay attentive and retain information for later. Although there isn’t a formal dress code for hearings, others will be dressed in business or business casual attire. These are only suggestions but would help maximize your experience.

Contacting Your Legislator

Contacting your legislators is another great and easy way to participate in government. There are a few ways to express your concerns.

  1. Locate your elected representative.
  2. Call, email, or write a letter
  3. Request a meeting with your legislator’s office

Whether you’re in Washington, DC or in your home district, you can contact your official’s office to have an in-person sit-down meeting to discuss your concerns.

Expressing any concerns you have is your constitutional right, and keeping the dialogue respectful is always appreciated. It may seem overwhelming at first, but it’s a rewarding and important experience. At America Matters we are happy to help and answer any questions you may have, tweet us @USAMattersNow