Because of the work of Indivisible groups across the country, it took the House five months to pass TrumpCare—something that every political insider thought would only take a couple of days. Now, the Senate is working behind closed doors to decide the future of healthcare. Given what's at stake, this is an unconscionable process, but it's the process Senate Republicans have chosen—this is the ground we're forced to fight on.
The Senate is everything now. Let’s be clear, if TrumpCare gets through the Senate, it will probably become law. The highest hurdle for Republicans was always the Senate, which means that if they manage to jam it through, there’ll be nothing left to stop it from getting to Trump’s desk. That’s why your focus needs to remain on your Senators. We know you’re tired. We know you’re frustrated. But this is it. And, it will depend on you and your groups.
We can kill TrumpCare in June. The timeline is tight. We’re expecting a vote in the last week of June. But the closed-door discussions are happening right now. To be clear, NOBODY knows which way this will go. By applying pressure now, we have a real opportunity to influence the outcome. The key is, we can't just wait until the vote—we need to influence the discussions happening before the vote. That’s what this toolkit is about.
The campaign plan this month. We don’t know exactly when the Senate version of TrumpCare will see the light of day, so this action plan provides an overview of three different tactics to be used over the course of June. Rather than isolated events, these are meant to be looked at as a short campaign plan. Taken together, these actions send a crystal clear message to Senators on the fence: stand with us, stand for our health care, or find another job.
Remember, we’re five months into this Congress, and they have yet to enact a single significant piece of legislation. That's because of YOUR advocacy on your home turf. Implement this strategy, fight this campaign, keep standing indivisible, and we will keep winning.
Since the Republicans are reworking TrumpCare in secret, it’s difficult to predict an exact timeline for this legislation. What we know now is this could come up for a vote as soon as the end of June.
Groups across the country have been doing outstanding work holding MoCs accountable for their vote in the House (see Payback Project) and shifting to calls for transparency in the Senate. We have a little bit of time left to save the ACA and a lot of work to do.
The Senators who will either pass or sink this bill will be greatly influenced by what they’re hearing from constituents. Our strategy is to use constituent pressure on every member of the U.S. Senate to force them to understand that voting against Trumpcare is in their best interest—and that of the people they represent.
Because of an arcane process called budget reconciliation, TrumpCare is not subject to filibuster and requires a simple majority to pass the Senate. If Democrats hold firm in their opposition, that means Republican leadership will need 50 out of the 52 Republican Senators to vote for the bill. Luckily, there are more than three Republicans that we think we can move to vote no on TrumpCare with sufficient pressure from their constituents.
While some Republican Senators are more likely to change their votes than others, EVERY action has an impact on the outcome—because it helps show that there’s an overwhelming, nationwide wave of opposition to this bill. Currently, Republicans are negotiating behind closed doors about exactly what the bill will look like. If every single Republican Senator has a story about the intensity of opposition in their own state, it will change the conversation and change what they think is possible.
Over the next three weeks, there are two sets of asks you should be making when you’re writing making phone calls, during office visits, and holding sit-ins.
For Republican Senators
They need to know that you demand that they vote AGAINST TrumpCare. Voting yes means ripping away health care from millions of Americans. It means voting against the interest of their constituents to give Donald Trump a victory. We have resources on our website specific to your Senators that you should use when communicating with staff.
- Ask them to commit to voting against any bill that will result in anyone losing coverage.
- Ask them to commit to voting against any bill that does not guarantee people with pre-existing conditions won’t see higher premiums.
- Ask them to vote against to any bill that eliminates funding for Medicaid.
For Democratic Senators
Does your Democratic Senator already oppose TrumpCare? Great. Now, what else are they doing to stop the bill from passing? They should be as fired up as you are, they should be doing everything within their power to stop or slow the process in the Senate. Ask them to:
- Ask them to resist through procedure. Your Democratic Senator can draw attention to the secret process and slow down Senate business, through a combination of filibustering and “withholding consent.” The rules of the Senate are so complicated that Senators have to regularly consent to waiving some of them so that they can actually get work done. That includes shortening time for debates, expediting consideration of amendments, and scheduling committees. Your Senator can slow the Senate down to a crawl and focus attention to TrumpCare by withholding his or her consent on legislative business.
- Ask them to filibuster by amendment. Republicans are using a special process called “reconciliation” to jam through TrumpCare. This means they only 50 senators to vote in favor in order to pass it, instead of the usual 60. But the trade-off is that they have to allow an unlimited number of amendments. Any Senator can file as many amendments as they want and then call them up for a vote on the Senate floor during a period called “vote-a-rama.” Democratic Senators can and should plan thousands of amendments and keep them going until Republicans agree to have public hearings on the bill.
Indivisible groups are going to have an impact because these actions will happen all across the country. It’s important to engage in this plan in every state. That being said, there are a few frontline members that should receive some extra pressure: Susan Collins (ME), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Dean Heller (NV), Shelley Moore Capito (WV), Bill Cassidy (LA), Rob Portman (OH), Tom Cotton (AR), Cory Gardner (CO), Jeff Flake (AZ), Pat Toomey (PA) and Dan Sullivan (AK).
The following tactics are all powerful when used independently. Used in succession, and done by Indivisible groups all across the country, these tactics will show the Senate that their constituents aren’t going to sit by while they end protections on pre-existing conditions to give a tax break to the wealthy.
The following steps include a planning meeting, Letter to the Editor writing party, phone call drive, and culminate in district office visit sit-ins, coordinated across states for maximum impact.
Step 1: Have a Planning Meeting (ASAP!)
Though this action plan includes a timeline and steps for your group to take, it’s important to bring your group together to outline your campaign, delegate responsibilities, and get folks to commit to action.
Before the Meeting
- Plan a meeting. If you don’t have a regular group meeting coming up, plan one!
- Publicize your meeting. Email your list, post on Facebook, make phone calls to your core members, and encourage folks to bring a friend—meetings are always great opportunities to grow your group.
- Set an agenda. Since you’re planning several actions, it’s crucial to stay on task during the meeting, so spend time writing out a timed agenda in advance.
During the Meeting
- Determine your timeline. Set a date (or dates) for each of the tactics and determine different benchmarks for each (e.g., when do you need a need to create a Facebook event for your sit-in or when will you finalize the location for your LTE writing party?).
- Assign volunteer roles. Select different members of the group to lead up the planning and execution of each tactic outlined below. Each tactic can also have a whole planning team, so have folks volunteer to take on those roles. These roles can be great opportunities to recruit new folks from your network or those of other group members!
- Breakout for each tactic. Consider doing a breakout so the volunteer teams can start making plans for the specific action they’re owning.
- Commit to action. Once you’ve determined a plan and set dates for your actions, have everyone at the meeting commit to the ones they’re able to attend.
After the Meeting
- Follow up with action leaders. Check in with the group members who volunteered to lead a specific event. Do they understand their role? Have they delegated effectively to other volunteers? Are you confident they can plan everything in time?
- Send an email to your group. Follow up with an email to your group outlining the specific upcoming events and don’t forget to include the commitments everyone made at the meeting.
Step 2: Letters to the Editor Parties
Every morning, Representatives and Senators start their day reading “press clips” – a collection of news stories that mention either the lawmaker or an issue they are following. Every Member, every day. That’s why media matters so much in your work to change the narrative in your congressional district/state and convince members of Congress (MoCs) to take the action you want them to take.
When you care about an issue, and you want to cut through the noise and be 100% sure they see your message, the answer is always: get it in the paper. You can do this by submitting a Letter to the Editor (LTE). If you're considering doing a post-card party, make it a letter to the editor party instead; these letters are more effective. A Letter to the Editor is usually shorter than a longer opinion piece (150-300 words, depending on specific guidelines from your local newspaper, which can always be found on their website).
Though LTEs can be written from the comfort of your own home, consider getting together group members to have a LTE writing party. Group members can also write these on their own time, but you’ll get a better result (and have more fun!) coming together to write them.
Before the Event
- Secure a location. A coffee shop, library or group member’s house can be a perfect location for an LTE writing party. Identify a location at least a week in advance of the event so that you can give group members notice about where it will be.
- Identify local publications. Pull together a list of local newspapers that you can submit your LTEs to and begin to look for contact information.
- Gather materials. Have folks bring laptops, tablets, or pens and paper with them. If possible, bring some extra writing materials as well. Additionally, make a training plan for how you’ll communicate the below LTE tips to your group members (or feel free to print out this guide!).
During the Event
- Sign everyone in. Bring a piece of paper or use a Google Form to sign in everyone who comes to the event. This way you can thank them later and invite them to events in the future!
- Keep it Simple. Remember, you are writing for a general audience, not technical experts. Keep your writing simple (but specific)—now is not the time to dust off your college philosophy class references or start imitating Thoreau—and avoid any acronyms or jargon that might not be widely known.
- Be Clear and Concise. Most publications have a maximum word count, so keep your piece focused on just your overarching concept and major point(s). And stick to one topic—we know there is A LOT to advocate on, but do so one at a time and stick to what is most pressing at the moment. And be sure to articulate clearly what it is you are writing about or responding to. If your piece is in response to a previous article, reference the headline and publication date. If it is in response to a specific piece of legislation, include the bill name and number (you can find these on congress.gov if you aren’t sure of the specifics).
- Share your story. People remember stories and emotions, not statistics. Share a personal story or connect with shared values.
- Be Relatable. Most readers will gravitate towards a cause if they feel connected to it or to the messenger. So include personal examples from your own life and/or your local community that will illustrate your point.
- Make a Clear Ask. Spell out EXACTLY what it is you want the lawmaker, publication, or reader to do. For example, if you want the paper to print a retraction or correction to an inaccurate article, ask for it. If you want the lawmaker to vote a certain way on a bill, say so; in this case we want Republican Senators to vote against the TrumpCare and Democratic Senators to withhold consent. Or if you want your peers in the community to weigh in on an issue, ask them to and include instructions on how to do so (i.e. the lawmakers phone number).
- Find an Editor. Always have a friend, colleague, or fellow Indivisible volunteer proofread your piece before you submit it to the paper. That way you will know the message is clear and free of errors.
After the Event
- Determine how to submit the LTE. Find your local newspaper's Letters to the Editor submission email on their website. If you can find the email address for the opinion pages editor, it would be even better to send your submission directly to him/her via email. Be sure to check that you are obeying your newspaper's word limit, usually 150-200 words.
- Submit your LTEs. Submit your letter to the editor using the online submission tool on your newspaper’s website, or via email by pasting your letter into the body of your email if that is their preferred method of submission. If you’ve succeeded in finding the newspaper’s opinion editor, send a copy to him or her as well. (Note that many newspapers will require that letter writers submit a hometown and phone number with their letter. Phone numbers won't be published. This is just to verify your identity.
- Stagger your submissions. If you have several group members submitting LTEs, make sure you’re staggering your submission over the course of a week or a several day spread. Editors just trash letters when they receive a group of similar letters at once and realize they’re the target of a coordinated effort.
- Amplify your success. When a group member has an LTE published, celebrate that success by sharing with the rest of the group and posting to social media. Let us know too by emailing email@example.com!
Step 3: Phone Calls
Making calls is a light lift, but it can have a big impact. We’ve already seen the impact that calls are having—on TrumpCare in the House, on calling for a special counsel, the CHOICE Act, and more.
Urge group members to make calls each day, and maximize your impact by sharing the phone script below in as many venues as possible. It is more powerful if you call the Senate staffer handling health care for your Senators. We’ve posted the contact info for all of the staffers here to help you out. This is how you do it:
- Call your Senator’s DC office and ask to speak to the health staffer BY NAME. Tell them that you have questions for them about the health care bill. After verifying that you’re a constituent, the person on the phone will do everything they can to keep you from talking to the health staffer. Don’t let them!
- Tell them that you are a constituent and that you DEMAND to be put you in touch with the health staffer.
- If they connect you, follow the script below. If they send you to voicemail, leave a message with your ask, and ask that they return your call.
- If the person on the phone refuses to connect you directly to the staffer, leave your comment with the person on the phone. Follow the script below.
- Keep calling! If you are unable to connect over the phone with the staffer, send them an e-mail with your asks. (Remember: Republicans need to know you want them to vote against TrumpCare and Democrats need to know you want them withholding consent until there is a public hearing). Demand that they send you a response.
You can practice making calls this week! There is a National Senate Call-In Day to stop TrumpCare on Wednesday, June 14. Make calls and help spread the word. (Share on Facebook.) (Tweet this.)
Set a goal for yourself, let folks know your goal and ask them to confirm for you when they call. (Bonus Tip: for folks who are particularly enthusiastic, ask them to set their own goal for driving calls!)
Driving more calls:
- Set a goal: think through the number of people you know (outside of the Indivisible group you work with) who would be willing to make calls. Make a list. Set a goal of getting half of them to make calls.
- Email the script to your friends: write a quick note to your friends (feel free to use the language above under “Overview”), and share the script. Tell them you’ve set a personal goal of driving x calls, and ask them to let you know if they call!
- Share the script on social media: Write a short note on Facebook and Twitter highlighting the urgency of the campaign and sharing the link to the script below. Set a goal, and ask folks to comment or tweet when they call! Sample post: “The Senate is debating a bill to repeal the ACA in secret, a bill that could steal healthcare from 23 million people. Phone calls can make a big difference, so join me in calling Senators X and Y urging them to vote against this cruel bill. The script is here, comment if you call and let’s make 5 calls today!”
- Call through your friends who haven’t made a call: make your calls to your Senator’s office for the day, and then take a minute to call through folks on your list who haven’t made a call yet and ask them to do so. Share why you personally think this is important, and then offer to send them the script and the phone number to call via email or social media. If they agree, ask them to text you when they call. You can call through your list all at once, or just call your Senators and a couple other people a day.
- Recruit: Anyone who’s particularly enthusiastic, encourage them to set their own goal and create their own list, and forward them this toolkit. Let’s get them on the team and get them to the next Indivisible meeting!
Going through all of the above steps can be pretty quick, if you just do a little bit each day, and it’s a great way for new people to do something impactful and get more involved. Take a look at the new TrumpCare Senate Script here.
Step 4: District Office Sit-Ins
Sit-ins are a peaceful direct action tactic wherein activists draw attention to an issue by sitting down and occupying a physical space. Often the chosen space is one where demonstrators might not typically be welcome, or where they can disrupt business-as-usual for powerful institutions or passersby. Sit ins can be very effective in asserting a group’s right to be in a space, or in drawing attention to an issue. This tactic has a long history in American politics—most notably in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s.
We will be sitting in at MoC’s offices around the country to demand that they speak to their constituents about the disastrous GOP Health Care bill. For too long, these members have ignored the grave concerns of the very constituents they are obligated to serve.
Every MoC has at least one district office, and many MoCs have several spread through their district or state. These are public offices, open for anybody to visit — you don’t need an appointment.
Many of you already have extensive experience visiting your MoCs district office. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to planning an effective action. Think about how the office is laid out and how staff have responded to your groups' visits before when planning your action. A sit-in expresses that your group is willing to sit there until your Senator or his or her staff address your concerns—that you are demanding to be heard. That is what makes these actions powerful.
Before the action:
- Find out where your MoCs’ local offices are. This is easy—go to www.contactingcongress.org and type in your zip code. This will bring up your Senators (and Representatives for that zip code), along with the district offices and addresses.
- Reach out to other Indivisible groups across the state. To significantly ramp up impact, coordinate with indivisible groups in other parts of the state to orchestrate your sit-ins at multiple offices on the same day. If you can cover every regional office in the state, that’s the gold standard. This NEVER happens, and it will be a shock to the offices, and send a clear message that opposition to TrumpCare is statewide. Take a look at the website and facebook to find other groups, and reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org to get help finding other groups in the state to coordinate with if you’re having trouble. This is a good thing to be doing anyway!
- Work jointly to pick a day to do your Sit-In. While the bill could happen as late as the end of June, or even later, it could also come very quickly. Pick a day in the next few weeks that works for as many groups as possible, but be ready to move it up as necessary!
- Articulate your demands, and write these down. Clarity is crucial in any kind of potentially disruptive civil disobedience. Let there be no doubts about why we are going what we’re doing. By now, you all will have voiced your concerns in the local paper, and you will have made many calls to their offices. If they haven’t adequately responded, it is time for escalation. Given that the TrumpCare vote is coming up in the Senate so soon—and recognizing the effect it will have on our lives—we can’t afford to let them vote without having heard our concerns in-person.
- Determine your placement strategy: Some offices have rules about not letting groups bigger than two in to the office. If someone tells you they don’t allow groups in, will you walk in anyway? What if they lock the door to keep you out? Consider an alternate space if the office is inaccessible for whatever reason. This could mean the hallway, it could mean the sidewalk outside, the parking lot, etc. Be aware that blocking entry or exit could mean that law enforcement could be called.
- Determine your exit strategy. How long will you stay at the office? Will you sit-in until your demands are met? Will you stay for predetermined number of hours? Come to a consensus on this, and the determine how you will exit the office once the time comes. A poorly planned exit can make your action appear to have ended in failure.
- One suggestion: Everyone exits the building together after X hours of sitting in. Your spokesperson or action coordinator addresses the participants, passersby, and media outside the office after the predetermined period has ended. The spokesperson congratulates demonstrators on a successful action and says whether or not demands were met.
- What will you do if your Senator's staff asks you to leave? You can say something like: “I understand why you're asking us to leave, but this is our Senator's office and (s)he works for us. We will be happy to leave as soon as our concerns have been addressed." However, the staff may insist that you leave or threaten to have you arrested. Decide as a group in advance how you want to respond and under what circumstances you would exit the office.
- Write an agenda for the action.
- Designate key roles.
- Action Coordinator - The Action Coordinator should manage the logistics of the action, ensure that key participants have arrived, and signal when it is time to sit. This person should also give the signal when it is time to exit or determine, in case of emergency, whether the action needs to end early.
- Spokesperson - The Spokesperson(s) should communicate with the staff and/or the MoC. This person should clearly state demands: that your group wishes to speak with the MoC, that you are there as concerned constituents, worried about the TrumpCare, and to demand that they vote “No.” Spokespeople should also be responsible for speaking to the press.
- Speakers - These individuals should share their story of how the TrumpCare will affect their lives or the lives of people close to them.
- Police liaison - This is the individual responsible for speaking with law enforcement. This person should not divulge information about who planned the event, who the Action Coordinator is, or dictate what participants do. The Police Liaison is a calm intermediary communicating between the demonstrators and police.
- Support team - This role is great for people who cannot sit down for long periods of time. The support team will bring snacks, water, pillows, and meals to the demonstrators to ensure that discomfort does not compromise the sit-in.
- Who will sit? - This is the most straightforward and most important role. Several people in your group who are comfortable sitting down for long periods of time should commit to be the demonstrators. These people should be able to maintain their calm in case of confrontation.
- Social Media Lead - These are the individuals who should take photographs and livestream or live-Tweet the event. They should help broadcast your efforts to the world. Be sure to tag @IndivisibleTeam in your Tweets!
- Rehearse the event. Practice a few different scenarios. Have someone play the MoC’s staffer, disgruntled passersby, police, etc. Take stock of how you and your group are feeling as you rehearse. Is it uncomfortable to sit on the floor? Was it clear to your group how to respond if staff asked you to leave? If the police arrived? Practicing the event will allow you to make contingency plans and think critically about the experience and safety of the demonstrators.
At the action
- Allow time for arrivals. Be discreet. The Action Coordinator should make sure that the event does not begin until all key roles have arrived. They should take attendance outside or in the parking lot.
- Everyone goes inside or nobody goes inside. Make sure everyone in your group and in the office is clear that ALL group members go inside the office or no one goes inside. If the staffer refuses to allow part of your group in the office, demand to have your Senator come outside to meet you instead.
- Go inside. The Spokespeople make your demands clear, and politely, but firmly, ask to meet with the Senator in-person. Staff will ask you to leave or at best “offer to take down your concerns.” Don’t settle for that. You want to speak with the MoC directly. If they are not in, ask when they will next be in, or if they can be put on speaker. If the staffer doesn’t know, tell them you will wait until they find out. Sit politely in the lobby. Note: On any given weekend, the MoC may or may not actually come to that district office.In district, the best person to meet with is the district director, or the head of the local district office you’re visiting. The district director or the office director will be the most senior staffer at the office and is the best person for you to speak with. In some cases, they may be more open to progressive ideas than the MoC, and having a good meeting with/building a relationship with a supportive staff member can be a good way to move your issue up the chain of command. Follow these steps for a good staff meeting:
- Have a specific “ask” (e.g., the asks listed in the above section)
- Bring a brief write-up of your issue, with your demands clearly stated.
- Share a personal story of how you or someone in your group will be personally impacted by TrumpCare
- Be polite—yelling at the underpaid, overworked staffer won’t help your cause!
- Be persistent. Even if you have a good introductory chat with the staff, you should not capitulate in your demands. You want to hear directly from your MoC!
- No answers? Sit down. If your MoC will not meet with you, won’t get on the phone with your group while you’re there, and there is no sign that your wishes will be honored, the Action Coordinator gives the signal. Everyone sits down.
- Throughout the sit-in, speakers will take turns sharing their stories and giving remarks. Call out your MoC by name, during each set of remarks. These speakers will be most moving to the staff, to the press, to viewers on social media, and will be energizing for the demonstrators who are sitting in. Consider chanting as well!
- Difficulties during the event. It is almost inevitable that some discomfort will be involved. It is important the Support Team do their best to mitigate this by bringing snacks, water, supplies, warm meals, pillows, and anything they can to make it easy for demonstrators to continue. This team is also a big part of morale during the event. They should be encouraging and should cheer on the demonstrators while being responsible for comfort.Your group might be physically uncomfortable. You might be confronted by staff. The police may be called. (A note on police encounters is a good resource.) NOTE: If law enforcement asks you to leave, you should comply.
- What happens next will vary from sit-in to sit-in! Some of you will get to talk to you MoC. If so, congratulations! Your sit-in was a success. Follow the same guidelines that listed above for talking to the staff. If not, don’t worry! Your sit-in will still be successful, as long as you stick to the agreements you made during the planning process. If a staffer asks you to leave, you can say something like: “I understand why you're asking us to leave, but this is our Senator's office and (s)he works for us. We will be happy to leave as soon as our concerns have been addressed." Stick with your plan: leave under the circumstances you agreed to beforehand. If something unexpected happens—if the staff threatens you, for example—your Action Coordinator should make a decision whether to exit and everyone should do so as a group. Even in these cases, gathering outside the office and publicizing what happened will still accomplish the most important part of this campaign—applying intense public pressure.
- Follow your exit strategy. We outlined above that it’s important for to stick your exit. Remember this, despite the stress of the event itself. Your optics here will determine how your action is viewed by the media and your followers on social media. Come out triumphant in your success or energized by your righteous anger. Make sure that you don’t leave behind any trash. The only thing you should leave behind are your written demands and an impression upon the staff in the office.
After the Action
Send photos and press clips of your event to email@example.com! Plan a debrief meeting with your team. Use this time to discuss how it went and whether you would do anything different.
Be sure to celebrate your work and take a well-earned break.
Step 5: Hold a meeting to debrief the campaign
- Bring sign-in sheets and take attendance.
- Measure your success.
- How many Letters to the Editor did you write? How many were published? Remember to send these to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- How many calls to your senators offices did your group make?
- Was your sit-in a success? How long did you sit? Did you MoC respond?
- Discuss your experience. This was a slightly longer campaign than we’ve had in the past. How did everyone enjoy the tactics? What did you learn?
- Celebrate your success!
- Share your achievements with the Indivisible Team! Email the measures of your success to email@example.com.