Voters are desperately trying to reach their Senators to voice opinions or concerns during this turbulent time, but many are running into what seem to be inaccessible offices where it is impossible to even leave a message.
One of the offices that has gotten the most complaints was Senator Pat Toomey’s office of Pennsylvania. Constituents reported to me being unable to even leave a message, the mailbox being full, and sometimes the call just going “nowhere”, not even to a recording, for two weeks.
These complaints were further buttressed by a report in the Pittsburgh Post Gazette.
“I feel completely ignored,” Dr. Kellerman of Fox Chapel, Pennsylvania told the PPG.
They report, “She isn’t the only one… Mr. Toomey, R-Pa., is among the hardest to reach, say some constituents.”
Ms. Jamieson of Mt Lebonon Pennsylvania, told the PPG “She’s called Mr. Toomey’s office daily since Election Day…” After a very low rate of contact, she concluded, “It makes me think that Sen. Toomey is avoiding his constituents.”
A part of the USA Today network, the York Daily Record reported, “Residents from around the state have been reporting difficulty making contact by phone with regional offices of the second-term Republican, particularly in the wake of President Donald Trump’s executive order restricting immigration from seven majority-Muslim countries. A local Facebook group, Indivisible Action – PA 4th District, is littered with stories of members getting only busy signals or full voicemail boxes when they call his offices.”
Toomey’s Communications Director Elizabeth R Anderson replied to me in an email in which I expressed concern that constituents couldn’t reach the senator to express their concerns.
“There is a lot going on in Washington right now. As such, many Pennsylvanians are calling to make their voices heard on a range of issues. Senator Toomey’s staff in both Pennsylvania and Washington are taking an ‘all hands on deck’ approach in answering as many calls and emails as possible while also attending to other responsibilities, such as helping veterans, seniors, and attending to legislative concerns. Voicemail accounts are being emptied regularly, but with call volume as heavy as it is, mailboxes do fill quickly. We appreciate everyone’s patience. Another good way to reach the office is via the website toomey.senate.gov.”
“Senator Toomey is very much aware of the magnitude of the call volume and receives a roundup of constituent communications and their positions,” Anderson added.
Fair enough, but how can “all hands on deck” lead to a full mailbox for two weeks. This is troubling.
I asked how the Senator can get a round up of his constituents positions when people can’t get through.
Anderson wrote back highlighting the previous part of her email directing people to use the website. I responded that it doesn’t work well when people do not know to use the website.
When our office tried to call again minutes later, we got a new recording directing people to use the website.
I got this from a constituent when I shared this directive:
— christy (@c18913) February 2, 2017
Toomey constituents wrote to tell me they had been trying to reach his office for two weeks:
@PoliticusSarah Can't get through to Senator Toomey – been trying for 2 weeks
— Steven Tremitiere (@stremitiere) February 2, 2017
Voters are not impressed with how inaccessible their senators are:
@PoliticusSarah how can they do constituent service if they can't handle phone calls? Unprofessional and potentially dangerous.
— pru (@pru_fallows) February 2, 2017
There hasn’t been a good reason provided as to why the voicemail can’t be cleaned out regularly and why it was full for a week without end. Directing people to use the website is better than nothing, but people should be able to call their senators and at the very least, leave a message.
Yes, this is a busy time and yes, it is extra work. But it is the job. If Senators don’t want to do it, they shouldn’t have run for office. Furthermore, it’s not the constituents’ fault that Donald Trump is ricocheting from terror to terror, massively overstepping any previous executive branch power, and nominating extremists to his cabinet.
It is vital that senators be accessible to their constituents at such a critical time of Trump-caused upheaval. People are afraid, they need to be heard.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.