Students on Tuesday were provided a training session in lobbying members of Congress, hosted by the Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL). The event, led by Young Adult Program Manager Katie Breslin and Advocacy Corps member Kate Sundberg ’20, focused specifically on pressuring Rep. Rosa DeLauro to join the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus (BCSC).
This event is a part of a broader, country-wide effort by the FCNL to encourage bipartisan cooperation in addressing climate change. Sundberg, along with roughly 20 other members of FCNL’s Advocacy Corps are galvanizing college students around the nation to lobby their members to join this caucus.
A Quaker—yet all-inclusive—organization, the FCNL uses in-person, constituent-driven lobbying to advance their values through bipartisan solutions. Contrary to many conceptions of lobbying in Washington DC, the FCNL attempts to make lobbying much more accessible to constituents.
To Sundberg, who joined the Advocacy Corps this semester, it was a logical decision given how much she cares about climate change.
As a Quaker, Sundberg was already aware of the FCNL’s work. She gained her first experience lobbying with the group after a friend, who was already a member of the Advocacy Corps, encouraged her to attend their annual lobbying conference in Washington D.C. last spring.
“The advocacy side is new to me because I’ve tackled environmental issues from an organizing, social-justice side,” she said. “It’s taking it from a different angle than I’m used to.”
During the 10-day intensive training session over the summer, Sundberg met with Republican Rep. Curbelo of the BCSC, and then later lobbied Sens. Murphy and Blumenthal of Connecticut.
“They actually do listen to you…sometimes,” she said. “Lobbying moves a lot more slowly, but it definitely still works.”
The BCSC, launched in 2016 by Democrat Rep. Ted Deutch and Republican Rep. Carlos Curbelo, aims to both educate and explore bipartisan, economically sound policies that address climate change. The caucus boasts 58 members and entry requires a partner from the other side of the aisle.
In addition to organizing students on campus for lobby visits to Connecticut representatives, Sundberg plans to reach out to the Middletown community and eventually all of Connecticut. She will also write letters-to-the-editor to newspapers statewide in an effort to both expand awareness of climate change and signal to representatives that climate change is an issue their voters care about.
About 10 people showed up to the lobby training, including a member of the Middletown community. Sundberg is already planning an upcoming lobby visit to Rep. DeLauro’s New Haven office to signal her constituents’ support for her to join the BCSC.
“The lobby training is to make people comfortable with going to lobby visits,” Sundberg said.
While DeLauro has not joined the caucus yet, she has expressed interest and is considering Republican representatives to pair with, according to Breslin. One potential partner is Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma.
The FCNL finds itself in a precarious position given how charged of an issue climate change is in politics. This means the group walks a thin line in the climate change debate. Although the FCNL works toward bipartisan action on climate change, it does not officially endorse specific policies that seem too partisan, such as a carbon fee and dividend that organizations like the citizens’ climate lobby support.
“Right now, the main ask is the climate solutions caucus,” Sundberg said. “But if other legislation comes up they’ll tell me ‘this is your ask now.’”
Although the Bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus is restricted to the House of Representatives, the FCNL involves itself in a range of environmental issues in both chambers. One such issue was climate research funding that was secured in the March budget agreement.
Students who want to get involved in lobbying Connecticut representatives on climate change can get more information by emailing Sundberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mason Mandell can be reached at email@example.com.