Senate Democrats, Republicans Have Different Ideas About Constituent Services During Shutdown

Posted: Oct 02, 2013 11:45 AM

If you're a Nevadan who voted for Harry Reid and have something to say about the current state of the federal government, you're out of luck. A phone call to Reid's office will leave you with the following message:

"Hello. You've reached Senator Reid's Washington Office. Due to the government shutdown, we are unable to answer phones, e-mail correspondence, or other consitutent services. Please call back at a later time. Thank you very much."

The phone call will then hang up on you.

It's a similar story around the offices of the Democratic Senate leadership. Sen. Dick Durbin has a similar automated message. Sens. Chuck Schumer and Patty Murray don't have messages - phone calls to their offices sound like the line has been disconnected:

Trying to reach Sen. Patty Murray

"Each office has the ability to determine how to staff their office," a Senate Republican aide - whose office is actually answering the phones with real live people - told Townhall. "Right now, we are on a scaled-back, skeletal crew... people like me, we're not being paid."

"People still need help. Reporters still have questions. We're here to help when we can."

Leadership for the Senate Republicans all have live humans still answering their phones. The offices of Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Minority Whip John Cornyn, Conference Chair John Thune and Policy Committee Chair John Barrasso are all still answering the phones. "Sen. McConnell decided to prioritize constituent services," a communications staffer in the Minority Leader's office tells Townhall.

On the House side, it's a different story. Calls to Speaker John Boehner's congressional office return a phone tree to leave comments, but also promise that a staffer will pick up the phone if you stay on the line. (I gave up after 15 minutes of patriotic hold music.) Majority Leader Eric Cantor's office returned a similar result. There was no message for Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy's office - the phone will simply ring indefinitely.

These are prioritization questions for Capitol Hill offices. None of the staffers working are getting paid. House offices have a smaller staff of workers to choose from, so prioritizing services may work a little bit differently. On the Senate side, though, Democratic leadership has made it a point that they're not stretching thin to help constituents.

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