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President Biden will need to be pushed, too

As we’ve said in our new guide, you should focus first on pressuring your Member of Congress (MoC) because that’s where you have the greatest amount of influence. However, we should still expect and demand bold action from the Biden Administration, beginning with immediately rolling back some of Trump’s most harmful policies like the Muslim ban, ACA sabotage, and climate change denialism. But undoing what Trump did isn’t nearly enough. We need the Biden administration to go beyond just undoing harm and to focus on proactive, affirmative progress across the board. 

It’s important to remember that we are not the only people attempting to influence the Democratic agenda. President Biden ran on the promise of moderate change, not the ambitious proposals we need to meet this moment. He has expressed opposition to progressive priorities like defunding the police, the Green New Deal, abolishing ICE, and Medicare for All. We will need to work hard to push him to be accountable to us. We’ll need to continue to keep Biden and Democrats accountable by doing what Indivisibles do best: demanding our elected officials’ attention and advocating for necessary change. Your voice is more important than ever.

Why focus on your Members of Congress versus the Biden Administration?

You might be wondering why we aren’t recommending that you focus your energy on putting pressure on the Biden Administration. The fact is that even with a Democrat in the White House, your biggest opportunity for impact is through constituent pressure on your three MoCs. Here’s why:

Your voice is worth less to a President than it is to a Member of Congress. The President is accountable to 330 million people every four years; your Representative is accountable to 750,000 constituents every two years. The variance is much greater for Senators, but the point is that all members of Congress get up every morning worried about getting re-elected in a way that a president does not. As a result, your members of Congress are much more accessible—and receptive to outside pressure—than a president, which means you’re more likely to get your message across if you focus on your MoCs.

A President needs Congress to enact his legislative agenda. Congress can either make things easy or impossible for a president to enact his agenda. Members of Congress can use hearings and other oversight mechanisms, the power of the purse, and their agenda-setting power to shape policy debates. This means that you, a constituent, have a lot of power to influence policy outcomes. Collective grassroots action will set the terms of the debate that a president can’t ignore.

In other words, if you want to maximize your impact, you should prioritize putting pressure on your two senators and your representative over trying to directly pressure President Biden. 

A few administrative advocacy tips

We can’t stress enough how important it is to focus first on your MoCs. That gives us the biggest chance of success. However, if you’re still interested in doing administrative advocacy to pressure Biden and other federal agencies, we have a few tips on some tactics you can use to help get you started:

Notice and Comment. Agencies are required by law to notify and solicit input from the public when they are considering major regulatory (or “rule”) changes. Although they are also required to respond to all of the comments submitted to proposed rules, agencies typically respond en masse to similar comments. You can submit comments by going to www.regulations.gov.

Tip: Do not submit form comments — Like form letters to MoCs, if you submit form comments, they will be immediately dismissed. If you decide to use a template or draft comments from a trusted organization, make sure to edit and personalize your comments enough that agencies must respond to them as new comments, rather than dismiss them outright.

Meetings with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)

As a member of the public, you may also request a meeting to discuss a proposed regulation directly with the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), which is housed within OMB and that must review and approve of all new regulations before they are final. You can request a meeting online at https://www.reginfo.gov/public/do/eo/neweomeeting

Mass mobilization

The reality is that submitting comments and scheduling meetings with OMB are tactics that are mostly effective at slowing down bad regulations or sometimes for making small changes to proposed rules, assuming the agency receives thousands of comments. The best way to influence the Biden Administration is to join in mass mobilizations in support or opposition to policy proposals. It’s a tried and true tactic that we even saw work, in limited cases, under Donald Trump.