‘I’m Just A Bill’ – How the Electrify Africa Act got to the House

WOW. In just a few short days, the Electrify Africa Act will be up for a vote in the House. ONE members have been lobbying and campaigning hard since June 2013 to bring the bill to this very moment.

What did volunteers do to get the bill here? Let’s retrace our journey with the Electrify Africa Act using some lyrics of my favorite childhood singalong song, “I’m Just a Bill” by Schoolhouse Rock!. 

As the song goes, “You sure got to climb a lot of steps to get to this Capitol Building here in Washington.”

I’m just a bill

In June 2013, just as the Electrify Africa Act was being introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R, CA-39) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D, NY-16), ONE volunteers held 114 in-district meetings with members of Congress and their staff in the local district offices to start talking about energy poverty.

In-district Meetings

Yes, I’m only a bill

Then in July and August of 2013, ONE members went to local coffee shops, libraries, churches and bars to talk about why this bill is so special. Our volunteer leaders led 50 of these “Advocacy in Action” events, which briefed people on the issue and asked them to take action in support of the bill by writing to their member of Congress.

Advocacy in Action 2

And I’m sitting here on Capitol Hill

From college campuses to concert venues, ONE members wrote 10,986 handwritten letters & constituent cards to their members of Congress asking them to co-sponsor the Electrify Africa Act and keep it moving. Letters came from students as part of the ONE Campus Challenge, Congressional District Leaders at their Advocacy in Action and other local events, and at concerts including our tour partnership with Maroon 5.

Energy Cards Maroon 5

Well, it’s a long, long journey, to the capital city

By fall of 2013, more than 100,000 people had signed ONE’s petition in support of opening up access to reliable electricity in Africa - but our work was not done yet. When it came time to deliver all of those signatures to Congress in September and October 2013, instead of taking that huge stack of petitions up to the congressional offices on Capitol Hill, we delivered to 230 local offices in all 50 states!

Petition Delivery

It’s a long, long wait

As ONE’s top volunteer leaders descended on Washington, D.C., in February 2014 for the Power Summit, we rallied for a big day up on Capitol Hill, where we had 142 meetings with House members in support of the Electrify Africa Act. The flurry of co-sponsors really kicked in at this time, and after the months of emails, letters, calls, tweets and local meetings we were able to add a substantial number of members of Congress to the bill.

While I’m sitting in committee

Shortly after, the House Foreign Affairs Committee held the mark-up of the bill where it passed through committee by voice vote. Chairman Royce & Ranking Member Engel (along with others) recognized ONE members’ efforts in support of the legislation!

Royce with ONE vols Markup Chairman Royce with ONE volunteers at the mark-up

But I know I’ll be a law someday…

Over the past couple of months, ONE volunteers have been making a big final push to add co-sponsors to the bill before it moves to a vote in the House. Months of hard advocacy work helped get 114 bi-partisan co-sponsors on the bill, and now we are excited to try and get this bill passed in the House! We need your help now because the vote could be happening very soon. Here’s how you can help:

Update: 5/7/2014: The House will officially vote on the Electrify Africa Act tomorrow afternoon. That means we’ve only got a few hours left to make our voices heard and get this bill passed.

Tweet your representative and urge him/her to VOTE YES tomorrow. Let’s help Africa bring electricity to 50 million people for the very first time.

Our little bill faces a major milestone in the coming days, and we’ve come a long way, but this is by no means the end. We still have to pass a bill in the Senate and get it to the President’s desk before it is signed into law. We will need each of you to get us there, but in the meantime don’t forget to pat yourself on the back for all of the hard work you’ve done to get us this far on such an important issue.