Letters From the West

Idaho’s short-staffed congressional offices’ voicemails overloaded with calls

I heard from many Idahoans Sunday who were skeptical of the level of support for the federal shutdown to defund Obamacare from people who called their Idaho congressmen.

The major criticism came from people who had tried to call their U.S. senator or representative and could not get through. I called on Sunday and Monday to the local offices and got the same problem.

First, you got a message that there was no one to answer the telephone because of the government shutdown. Then the voicemail where you could leave an opinion was full.

Todd Winer, press secretary for Rep. Raul Labrador, acknowledged the congressman’s Meridian office voicemail was full Monday. But Winer said voicemail for Labrador’s Lewiston, Coeur d’Alene and Washington, D.C., offices was not full and was working. He said the Meridian line was fixed today even though it is Columbus Day.

“The volume of calls has grown,” Winer said. “The commitment is there that everyone who calls or emails will get a response.”

He clarified that to say that only people who live in the 1st Congressional District — Labrador’s district — can expect a response.

The other three offices either did not respond or said that it was Columbus Day and they would get back to me Tuesday.

My story did not say that a majority of Idahoans supported the shutdown, as some readers suggested. It only said that a strong majority of the people who contracted the congressional offices told their congressmen to stand tough until Obama buckled.

Now with the backed up voicemails its not clear whether that trend has changed. I will ask again Tuesday so stay tuned.

Rocky Barker is the energy and environment reporter for the Idaho Statesman and has been writing about the West since 1985. He is the author of Scorched Earth How the Fires of Yellowstone Changed America and co-producer of the movie Firestorm: Last Stand at Yellowstone, which was inspired by the book and broadcast on A&E Network. He also co-authored the Flyfisher's Guide to Idaho and the Wingshooter's Guide to Idaho with Ken Retallic. He also was on the Statesman’s team that covered the Sen. Larry Craig sex scandal, which was one of three Pulitzer Prize finalists in breaking news in 2007. The National Wildlife Federation awarded him its Conservation Achievement Award.

Posted in Letters from the West