It was April 2013, four months after the horrific Sandy Hook school shooting in which twenty-six people were gunned to death in an incident that shook the country. Two Senators, Patrick Toomey (R) and Joe Manchin (D), rallied together enough bipartisan support to pass a modest compromise bill requiring background checks on commercial gun sales. The lead mover-and-shaker of the bill was Christopher Gahan, Senator Toomey’s Chief of Staff. Gahan worked feverishly for weeks until he had gathered the sixty votes necessary to pass the bill.
But the bill never passed. Four democratic Senators changed their votes at the last minute and voted against the bill.
What caused the bill to derail at the last moment? This is the question my colleagues and I asked Mr. Gahan, when he addressed us at a Georgetown Public Policy Scholars Meeting.
The answer, in his opinion? Phone calls. The NRA rallied their constituents, who proceeded to bombard their Senators with phone calls and emails. The Senate office phone lines were relentlessly flooded. Extra staff had to be brought in to handle all the calls. Staff members reported to their bosses that they had never before experienced that degree of unremitting, passionate, and crusade-like advocacy from their constituency. Ultimately, four Senators with pro-gun constituencies caved to the pressure.
To which I asked the Chief-of-Staff: “Phone Calls?” Senators who believe that a bill is in the best interest of the country would change their vote based on nothing more than phone calls from people who don’t understand the complexity of the issue and don’t sufficiently appreciate the need for modest reform?
Yes, said Gahan. Phone calls by constituents make a big difference. The bottom line, he said, is that sitting Congressman are elected by their constituents and need their constituents’ votes to get reelected. They understand that their job is to represent the interest of the constituency. A few phone calls on an issue is par for the course. And phone calls by non-constituents are irrelevant. But if their constituency is so fired-up, incessant, and passionate to the extent that phone lines are tied up for days on end, many Congressmen simply will not vote otherwise.
I write these words as the U.S. Congress is deliberating over an Iran deal that threatens the safety, security, and yes, the very lives of acheinu b’nei yisroel in eretz hakedosha. Observers and experts from across the Israeli political spectrum agree that the purported deal represents a catastrophe for the Israeli population. An American rejection of this deal is crucial, for although such a rejection would not necessarily prevent a general implementation of the deal, it can potentially provide Israel with the implicit support it needs to adequately defend its people. An American approval of the deal, however, would leave Israel and its people in a vastly more precarious situation.
We must daven to avert this g’zeira raa’h. But, alongside the tefillah must come the milchama. We must passionately, outspokenly, respectfully, and incessantly make our Congressional representatives aware of our stance regarding this bill.
Remarkably, many of the Congressmen whose votes are most crucial and who have the capacity to influence other members of their party to override a presidential veto have large frum constituencies. Charles Schumer (D-NY) has been described as the most influential Democratic member of the Senate; Ben Cardin (D-Md.) is a ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; Robert Menendez (D-NJ) is the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and is one of the architects of the Iranian Congressional oversight bill; and Steve Israel (D-NY) is the highest ranking Jewish Democrat in the House. These four Congressmen, along with dozens of others, are as of yet undecided about how they will vote on the deal. And they are our representatives.
Now is the time to pick up the phone and call your Senators and members of the House of Representative. Call them today. Call them next week. Call them the following week. Tell your siblings to call. Tell your friends to call. Tell your children and parents to call. It is our Israeli cousins who will feel the effect of the outcome of this bill. But it is we who, b’ezras hashem, can influence its outcome.
We can make a difference. We must make a difference. And, yes, phone calls do make a difference.
Yosef Wiener is a musmach of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel and a graduate of the Georgetown University Law Center.
Sample text for calls to congressional offices:
Hello. My name is Moshe Greenberg and I live in Lakewood, NJ. I am calling to express my profound concern regarding the Iran nuclear deal. It troubles me greatly that the United States is granting a path to a nuclear bomb and sanctions relief to a nation that has threatened and continues to threaten the safety and security of the world. The inspection regime that the accord provides for will, I fear, prove to be entirely insufficient to prevent Iran, a terrorist and jihadist state, from building a nuclear weapon in the near future. I urge you to use your important voice in Congress to oppose this dangerous deal. Thank you for your leadership.
- Senator Charles E. (Chuck) Schumer (D- NY): phone: 202-224-6542; fax: 202-228-3027 http://www.schumer.senate.gov/contact/email-chuck
- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D- NY): phone: 202-224-4451; fax: 202-228-0282 http://www.gillibrand.senate.gov/contact/
- Senator Robert Menendez (D- NJ): phone: 202-224-4744; fax: 202-228-2197 http://www.menendez.senate.gov/contact/?i=OTH
- Senator Cory A. Booker (D- NJ): phone: 202-224-3224; fax: 202-224-8378 http://www.booker.senate.gov/?p=contact
- Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D- MD): phone: 202-224-4524; fax: 202-224-1651 http://www.cardin.senate.gov/contact/
- Senator Barbara Mikulski (D- MD): phone: 202-224-4654; fax: 202-224-8858 http://www.mikulski.senate.gov/contact
You can find your House Representative and his phone number at this page: http://www.contactingthecongress.org/
NOTE: The views expressed here are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of YWN
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