Anti-Devos calls jam Senate phone lines

Liberal groups have sought to jam Republican phones lines with protests of President Trump's nomination of Betsy DeVos as Education secretary.

Credo Action’s vice president and political director, Murshed Zaheed, said its members made 18,000 calls to members of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on DeVos, targeting committee Democrats and key Republicans, including Sens. Lisa MurkowskiLisa MurkowskiTrump's DOJ gears up for crackdown on marijuana Pro-ObamaCare group targets key senators in new ads The GOP Wonder Women who saved healthcare for 22 million MORE (R-Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan CollinsCollins: Trump should not comment on special counsel GOP wrestles with soaring deductibles in healthcare bill Sunday shows preview: Scaramucci makes TV debut as new communication chief MORE (R-Maine) and Rand PaulRand PaulTalk of Trump pardons reverberates on Sunday shows Paul says president likely has authority to pardon himself Paul still supports repealing, replacing ObamaCare at the same time MORE (R-Ky.).

Sen. Bob CaseyBob CaseyDem leaders amp up calls for bipartisan ObamaCare fixes Let’s not roll back bipartisan progress on global food security Vulnerable senators raise big money ahead of 2018 MORE (D-Pa.) has received more than 50,000 emails and letters opposing DeVos, according to his spokesman, John Rizzo.

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And Sen. Tim KaineTim Kaine40 million fewer people expected to vote in 2018, study finds Al Gore warns Democrats about accusing Trump of treason Administration briefs Senate on progress against ISIS MORE's (D-Va.) spokeswoman, Sarah Peck, said Kaine has received more than 25,000 emails and letters about DeVos alone and the vast majority have been in opposition to her nomination.

Calls to action on social media platforms like Facebook have included a list of Republican senators on the HELP Committee, urging people to phone offices in an attempt to block DeVos’s nomination.

In a series of tweets Tuesday, Murkowski, who sits on the committee, said her Alaska and D.C. offices have been “overwhelmed with calls from the lower 48, which has made it difficult for Alaskans to express their opinions.”

She said her staff is doing the best they can to manage the phone calls and listen to voicemails.

“We're looking for solutions to manage the high [number] of calls,” she wrote, and advised her constituents to contact her online if they are having trouble getting through over the phone.

In a statement to The Hill Wednesday, Murkowski spokeswoman Jenna Mason confirmed that the office has been receiving a “higher than normal amount of calls,” but noted that they could be attributed to “a number of things.”

“The senator tweeted yesterday because she heard that some Alaskans were having trouble getting through to her offices and she wanted to make sure that she is able to hear from them, so she gave them alternative options to reach her,” she said.

Political advocacy group Every Voice teamed up with End Citizens United for a campaign heavily focused on DeVos. In a digital ad targeting senators who have received donations from the nominee, Every Voice urges constituents to call on their senators to recuse themselves from DeVos’s confirmation hearing.

While no senators have done so, communications director Adam SmithAdam SmithArmed Services leaders appoint strategy panel members House passes 6.5B defense policy bill House votes to allow Pentagon funding for gender transition MORE said the group’s effort helped highlight the role DeVos’s money has played in politics.

“Nobody has recused themselves, obviously, but the focus the role her money played in her nomination — by Democratic senators at the hearing and in the public discussion — has been important in piercing Trump's claim that he'll fight big donors and will stand up to their influence,” Smith said.

DeVos is not the only nominee lawmakers are getting calls about.

Several GOP Senate offices report being overwhelmed with protest messages against Trump's Cabinet picks, with the volume so high that some mailboxes are full.

The press shop for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellTalk of Trump pardons reverberates on Sunday shows Trump backers eye GOP primary challenges for Flake, Heller Senate spending plan boosts House moderates MORE (R-Ky.) on Tuesday thanked the “many Kentuckians” who have called the office to share comments and included a link to the online forum to submit additional messages.

Responding to a constituent on Twitter who said she sought to oppose the nomination of Sen. Jeff SessionsJeff SessionsTrump's DOJ gears up for crackdown on marijuana Kislyak going back to Russia, embassy says Grassley calls on 'leaker' to release Sessions-Russia conversation MORE (R-Ala.) for attorney general, Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) on Wednesday said “lots of Nebraskans” had been calling his Washington, D.C., office.

Sen. Jeff FlakeJeff FlakeTrump backers eye GOP primary challenges for Flake, Heller McCain’s primary challenger asks him to step aside after diagnosis Sen. Flake's GOP challenger: McCain should resign MORE’s (R-Ariz.) spokesman, Jason Samuels, said the office is getting “a high volume of calls” about Trump’s choices for the Cabinet.

“The majority of the calls are related to various nominees, but the distribution is fairly even,” Samuels said.

While liberal groups are largely behind the push, members of the general public are calling too, likely motivated by organic calls to action on social media.

“Progressive groups are seeing explosive responses to requests to take action, but there are waves of phone calls that have nothing to do with any organized group,” said Ben Wikler, Washington director at MoveOn.

In an email to The Hill, Sen. Dick DurbinDick DurbinTop Dem: Trump’s voter fraud commission will accomplish what Putin wants Senators who have felt McCain's wrath talk of their respect for him Graham and Kushner met to discuss immigration differences: report MORE’s (D-Ill.) spokeswoman, Emily Hampsten, said the office call and email/letter volume is up dramatically in opposition to a number of Trump’s Cabinet nominees.

“We noticed a visible increase immediately after the election,” she said. “The senator’s social media channels have also seen an influx in new followers and engagement.”

The number for the Congressional switchboard actually turned into a rallying cry among activists.

At the Women’s March on Washington and at rallies around the world, Wikler said groups were chanting (202) 224-3121.

Chanting the number for the switchboard, he said, leads to more action around the country than “this is what democracy looks like,” another popular cry.

Filmmaker Michael Moore also encouraged attendees to call their senators and representatives, having them recite the phone number for the Congressional switchboard as he specifically spoke against the nomination of DeVos.

“It'll take two minutes. Each day, I and others are going to be posting things for you to call Congress to do,” Moore said, urging attendees to tell lawmakers “we do not accept Betsy DeVos as our secretary of Education.”

Credo Action claims its members alone made over 73,000 calls in the last three and a half weeks.