Army Field Manual: Everything You Need to Know About Congress

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We start with a basic fact of life — or matter of constitutional law — here:

The Congress has the power “to provide for the common defense… to raise and support Armies… to provide and maintain a Navy… to declare war.”

It doesn’t really explain how you get any money out of them, however.

This is a job for the Army. Tea Party, beware.

The service that gave us the Airborne, the Armored, the Cavalry and the Infantry has prepared a PowerPoint for the troops sent into battle on Capitol Hill.

This primer on how to deal with Congress, in this case, the 113th Congress, draws a clean bead on who they’re dealing with here: Senators on average are 60 years old, House members 57.  One-fifth of the Senate are women, 19 percent of the House are female. Sixteen 
of 100 senators have military service, 88 of the 435-member House veterans. And military service for those serving on Capitol Hill has been on a steady decline.

“Congress reflects America” in this regard, the PowerPoint notes, as a declining share of Americans each year are veterans.

This thing names names, too. There is “no clear mandate for Defense,” the Army briefing warns of the political terrain on the Hill. There are “sequester-loving tea partiers who want to slash all federal spending” — naming Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky. There are Democrats who hate domestic spending cuts “who won’t lift a finger to restore Pentagon funding” — naming Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont.

The public may not like Congress, the polls show, but people “love our congressman!”

And by the way, 82 percent of the House’s members have “safe” districts. “Virtually all conservatives are Republican and all liberals are Democrats,” the military PowerPoint notes, “making it tough for moderates to survive.”

The challenge for the military is building “trust and confidence with Congress.” That means answering inquiries, meeting with members or staff, attending events (“opportunity encounters”) and hearings.

Remember: It’s not the lawmakers writing the laws.

“Nearly all legislation in Congress is written by staff — not members,” the presentation notes — which means: treating staffers “as you would treat Members.” Visits by staffers should not be viewed as “nuisance visits.” Instead: “Seize the opportunities.”

And there are classes of staffers: “Professionals” with longevity and higher pay, “depth of subject matter and institutional knowledge,” people who write legislation — many of them veterans, too. Then there are personal staffers, who have greater turnover, lower pay and less experience — yet have “more access, more influence” with the members they serve.

Working the committees is essential — “select the issues… control the questioning… select the witness.” These hearings should be approached as an “opportunity” to shape the debate.

Now, take that Hill!

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