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August Recess Activities

It’s August and that means Congress is leaving Washington, DC,to spend the month in their congressional districts, a time-honored tradition called August Recess. Back in their district, members of Congress will be hard at work meeting with constituents, holding town hall meetings, and visiting schools, labs, and local businesses.

August Recess is an excellent opportunity for scientists to interact with their lawmakers.

Here’s why:

  • Scientific funding through the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is at an all-time low, and funding for FY13 is expected to remain flat.
  • Devastating, automatic cuts in federal government spending are set to go into effect in January 2013. This action called sequestration resulted from the failure of Congress to agree upon a deficit reduction plan in 2011. In the event of sequestration, NIH could face an additional 8% funding cut. This could mean a reduction by a quarter in the number of new and competing renewal grants funded by NIH in FY13. Click here for more information on sequestration.
  • The defense industry is spending tens of millions of dollars on lobbying to have the Department of Defense exempted from sequestration. If they succeed and DOD is carved out of sequestration, the cuts for non-defense agencies would huge and the consequences dire.NIH could face a 20% cut starting in January 2013.
  • NIH funding is critical for the health of the nation and for the health of local economies.


Three things you can do over August Recess to be an effective advocate:

  1. Schedule meetings with your Members of Congress or their staff.
    • To do so, either visit your Members’ websites or call their district offices. Click here to enter your zip code and obtain contact information for your elected officials. Do not be discouraged if your meeting is with a staff member. Treat your meeting with them just as you would a meeting with the Member, whom they represent.

Here are talking points to use for your meetings. Bring your colleagues—numbers show strength!

  1. Find and attend a town hall meeting. 
    • To find out when and where these are being held, check your Members’ websites, Facebook and/or Twitter accounts, local newspapers, or call their offices. Some town hall meetings are held telephonically or via the web. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on the phone or in person.
  2. Send a letter to the editor of your local newspaper.
    • We’ve made it easy. Here’s a template to customize and send to the editor of your local newspaper. We’ve bracketed and capitalized the areas for you to customize. Find out how much NIH funding went to your district and state in FY11 here. It’s especially important to include the name of your Senators and Representative in your letter to the editor. That gets the attention of the Members’ office. Also, please note that most newspapers have a word limit for letters (usually 200 words), so we’ve kept the message short and to the point. Although, we’ve provided a draft, if possible personalize and tailor your own letter to the editor.

Check your newspaper’s website or editorial/letters page for instructions on how to submit letters to the editor. Many newspapers have an automated letter-submission page on their websites, while others provide an email address for you to use. Remember to include the text of the letter in the body of your email to the newspaper. Emails with attachments go right into spam folders and are often not seen or considered.

Please let me know if you have conversations with your elected officials during the month of August. Feedback about those discussions aids me in better representing you in Washington. Finally, let me know if your letter to the editor is printed –I’ll post it on the CLS Facebook page!