#Advocacy101 Part 1: Committee vs. Caucus

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As you are probably aware, here on the OCP blog, we believe an informed citizenry is an empowered citizenry. Our tools directly link advocates with specific legislators who are relevant to their causes and issues.

One of the most important ways we do this on a federal level is by staying current with our knowledge of Congressional committees and caucus.

But wait, you may say, what is the difference between a committee and a caucus, besides repeating letters and ease of pronunciation (KAH-KES)?

Well, we’re glad you asked.

There are twenty-one committees in each house of Congress and six joint committees. From Aging to Ways and Means, these are the famous, first steps to the “how a bill becomes a law process.” If you’re over the age of thirty, you learned this on Schoolhouse Rocks! Under thirty, and you learned this the way you learn everything – YouTube.

Committees basically decide which bills will see the floor, and the chair people of these committees have tremendous influence over the entire legislature. They shape agendas and make crucial decisions about our country’s future.

By contrast, there are dozens of Congressional caucuses. From the 21st Century Health Care Caucus to the Zero Capital Gains Tax caucus. These groups come together under a specific platform, goal or campaign in order to find influence and power in numbers.

Some caucuses are famous (like the Republican Caucus or Human Rights Caucus). Others, not so much. The Minor League Baseball Caucus, anyone?

The National Journal  describes it as reminiscent of old Apple commercials. “Like boating? There’s a caucus for that. Are you a former Girl Scout? There’s a caucus for that. Concerned about contaminated drywall? Yep, there’s a caucus for that, too.”*

Over the summer, the OCP blog is going to be highlighting some of the Congressional membership organizations with greater relevance to our readers and clients. So go ahead and check them out. Congress hasn’t updated its list since 2012, but Wikipedia’s is pretty comprehensive.

Check them out. Which ones surprise you most? Are any especially relevant to your cause or interests? Tell us why. Tell us which ones you’d love to learn more about. Tweet us using #advocacy101. We’d love to hear from you.

*Mims, Sarah. “Got a Hobby or General Interest? There’s a Caucus for That.” National Journal Daily. April 14, 2014.



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