Montanans Struggle to Place Phone Calls to Congressional Delegation
Montanans upset over the stalemate in congress may have difficulty getting their voice heard by their congressional delegation. As a test of how hard it would be for a normal citizen to reach their representatives, KGVO News called each representative one by one in the middle of the work day to see if anyone would pick up the phone.
A call placed to the D.C. offices of Senator Max Baucus received this automated message:
"We are deeply disappointed to inform you our office is closed due to the government shutdown. Please feel free leave a message and we will look forward to assisting you with your request when the government reopens. Please visit our website at www.baucus.senate.gov for more information and resources."baucus phone
Senator Jon Tester's office offered a similar message:
"Thank you for calling the office of U.S. Senator John Tester. Senator Tester's offices are closed due to the federal government shutdown. Voicemail and staff email are not active during the shutdown. You may leave your comments and find more information on Senator Tester's website at www.tester.senate.gov. We will be happy to assist you when the federal government's operations resume."
Only Congressman Steve Daines' offices had staff ready to answer calls. After a short conversation with a male staffer, we were referred to Daines' Communications Director Alee Lockman.
"All of our offices both in Washington D.C. and Montana are open during this time," Lockman said. "Although with very limited staff. We have furloughed about 50 percent of our staff in line with what most other federal agencies are doing. The congressman's first priority during this time is making sure that we continue to serve as a resource for Montana."
According to Lockman, Daines was allowed to select which personnel were “essential or non-essential” during the shutdown. Many other federal offices have reportedly had the same leeway.
An answer to why the phone lines were closed to the senator's offices may have to wait until after all federal employees are allowed to come back to work.