AUSTIN (KXAN) — With a new president comes new policies and plenty of people ready to voice their opinions, but some Central Texans say they can’t reach their members of Congress.
“They’re literally not answering their phone,” said Paige Harden. Harden is an associate professor at the University of Texas who is also working with an advocacy group called TX21 Indivisible. As she tries to voice her opinions, she says she is running into full voicemail boxes and ringing phones. “These are not just representatives for the people who voted for them, they’re the representatives for all of their constituents.”
Staffers in Washington D.C. answered the phones for U.S. Rep. Michael McCaul, Rep. Lamar Smith, Rep. Lloyd Doggett, and Rep. John Carter when KXAN called their main lines Monday morning. However, the voicemails for U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. John Cornyn stated that they were full and no one picked up the phone when KXAN attempted to call the main Washington D.C. lines.
The U.S. Senate Sergeant at Arms office, which oversees the Senate voicemail system, states that any voicemail issues are due to an influx of calls.
The offices for both senators stressed the importance of constituent communication.
“After the weekend that we had with the [executive order] on immigration, I’m sure that that the mailboxes were full and in some instances, some of the switchboards were shut down with folks as well,” said Hans Klingler, former chief of staff for Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin.
Klingler says once your call comes into a congressional office, staff enter it into a computer system. He says Congressman McCaul would read through summaries of the calls at the end of each day.
“They are there to represent your viewers first and foremost. So, if they don’t listen, they don’t last,” said Klingler.Statement from the office of Sen. John Cornyn:
Our office can receive as many as several thousand emails, phone calls, and messages a day. A member of our legislative staff reviews every opinion expressed in a phone call, voicemail, letter, or email and response to all written opinions individual as soon as they can.
Statement from the office of Sen. Ted Cruz:
Sen. Cruz looks forward to any and all opportunities to hear the concerns of Texans across the state. In both our DC office and six locations across Texas, our office has more than two dozen staffers who are focused on listening to the concerns of constituents, ensuring their messages are delivered to Sen. Cruz, and addressing questions they may have about federal agencies, programs, or processes. Every caller’s concerns, whether they speak live with one of our staffers or they get our voicemail, are logged, tallied, and prepared for a report that the Senator and his senior staff receive each day. Every email our office receives is responded to, and the daily emails are also included in the daily constituent correspondence report for the Senator. This ensures that the Senator and his closest advisers are up-to-date on the issues that matter the most to Texans.
A survey published by the Congressional Management Foundation found nearly two-thirds of people who contacted a congressional office remember getting a response. It also found about half of people were satisfied with the responses they got. For those who were not satisfied, the most common reason was, their response didn’t address concerns or was too politically biased.