(RNN) - By passing a last-minute deal on the debt ceiling, and a 16 days-late deal on the government shutdown, Congress finally got back to doing its job.
So, what now? Some people may see it as the time to relax - to not worry about the goings-on in Washington for a while.
Others may see it as the time to keep the momentum and push for their representatives to come up with answers to the nation's questions. With a budget passed only until January, a debt ceiling deal through February and a bunch of days off for Congress until then, the country may be back in the same situation soon.
Most polls showed the shutdown was unpopular by a wide majority, yet it happened anyway. The men and women of the House and Senate are there to serve the people, and they are only there at the will of the people.
Here are a few tips on how to reach out to your representative and what to say when you do.
If you're not sure, go to www.house.gov/representatives/find/ to find out who is speaking on your behalf. All of them have some kind of presence online, usually at least Facebook, Twitter and their own website.
Feel free to share their contact info with everyone. Remember: They are obligated to listen to their constituency, and it helps them fulfill the duties of the position by knowing what it is you want.
How do you feel about immigration reform? It's been listed as a priority by the president. Government spending? Keep in mind, sequestration cut more than $2 trillion in spending during the next 10 years.
And do you believe anything is worth shutting down the government or the U.S. defaulting on its loans?
Even people who think of themselves as independents usually identify with one major political party or the other. But always temper the stances of your preferred ideology with your personal beliefs and how something will affect you. No one else will look out for you like you.
Stay away from terms like "socialism," "big government" and "job creator" - these have become abstract catch-alls. They get used too often in lieu of actual discussions on actual problems.
Tell your Congress members if you were one of the furloughed workers that had to live without a paycheck and how their inaction personally affected you. If you went on the health insurance exchange, tell them about your experience and what it was you liked or didn't like. If you make minimum wage or own a business that pays it, tell them how that change would impact your life.
If they don't give you a response, send it again. If their answer is filled with buzzwords, send it again. Get them to say not only if they support something but why they do or don't.
They will only stop talking in circles if they know it won't work anymore.
It's one thing when someone gives the "sunniest" possible outlook on a piece of legislation they support, or provides a worst-case scenario of one they do not. It's another thing to outright lie.
Once you hear an answer, check what they're saying against the facts. Treat it like a term paper: make sure multiple, reliable sources confirm it.
Is it a comment about the economy? Find an economist's point of view. If it's science, get the answer from a scientist. "Experts" may not always be right, but your chances are way higher of finding accuracy from them than it is from "just some guy" with a blog.
"I hate Congress … except for my guy/girl."
No, they're probably part of the problem, too. Despite years of extremely low ratings for Congress, many of the same people keep getting re-elected on a wave of name recognition and general inattention.
All 435 seats in the House and many in the Senate come up for election in 2014. Tell them they have one year to come up with real, serious answers. No more cheap tricks or childish antics. No more wasting time with the political grandstanding in lieu of action.
And no more refusing to work together, even if they have a different letter after their name.
Tell them if they don't want their $174,000 a year salary with as many as 239 off days, someone else will be happy to take their spots.
Copyright 2013 Raycom News Network. All rights reserved.
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