In lawmaking, there’s a simple maxim that rules the day: “The President proposes, Congress disposes.”
Meaning, no matter what’s in the president’s proposal, he needs 217 votes in the House and 60 in the Senate to get back to his desk before he can sign it into law. And while the House is more likely to pass legislation supported by the majority party, it’s in the Senate where significant negotiating and deal-making must be done.
In the past several weeks, we’ve witnessed the House fail at its first attempt to pass a repeal of the Affordable Care Act, something Republicans have been saying they’d do since its initial passage into law. Experts would suggest that was due to a lack of participation by the president or coming in when it was too late to get legislators to change their minds (and vote).
Working the phones and whipping the vote were strengths for both Presidents Clinton and Bush, but something President Obama lacked. He famously stayed out of the relationship building that was needed in Washington to advance his agenda. But he was not without another very effective tool to persuade Congress to take up his agenda — the American people. His ability to inspire and rally an audience was like no other, helping to get the ACA across the goal line.
Like Obama, his successor President Trump has been using this tool to some effect, although it’s also too early to tell just how effective it’s been. It’s a classic tactic, run against beating the insiders at their own game. Challenge the voters to “melt the phones” as we’d say on Capitol Hill and relentlessly call their representatives in Washington.
That strategy surely will be tested this spring and in to the summer when Congress finally turns to rewriting our outdated tax code. After all, how many times do you hear your employees or peers complain about the tax code? Sure, everyone complains our taxes are too high, but do they contact their members of Congress to make sure they include a repeal of the estate tax or make permanent various deductions or credit?
Tax reform is often believed to be an insider’s game that only the well-connected have any chance at influencing. But that’s just not the case. Individuals have the opportunity to impact their member of Congress’ vote in numerous ways: by writing to them, calling them and seeing them in person. Remember, we’re coming up on Memorial Day, Independence Day and their August recess. These are perfect opportunities to take your message to them to let them know how it could impact you, your employer, your employees and your company. All of these factors should be taken into account before they cast such an important vote.
ASA provides its members with these opportunities. By encouraging and facilitating sight visits at a company location or headquarters. By hosting our members in Washington D.C., this June 13-14, providing materials and technology to write, fax or email their elected officials and positions that will impact small businesses. Stakeholders should never turn down the opportunity to speak up for what’s important to them. Lest Washington pass laws that harm one’s business, if you’ve not spoken up and out, then who is to blame?