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 Ann MurkowskiAlaska gov, lieutenant gov come out against Kavanaugh The Memo: Tide turns on Kavanaugh Budowsky: Kavanaugh and the rights of women MORE (R-Alaska), Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsPoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Feinstein's office says it has received threats over Kavanaugh Ford taps Obama, Clinton alum to navigate Senate hearing MORE (R-Maine) and Rand PaulRandal (Rand) Howard PaulConservatives left frustrated as Congress passes big spending bills Senate approves 4B spending bill Some employees' personal data revealed in State Department email breach: report MORE (R-Ky.).

Sen. Bob CaseyRobert (Bob) Patrick CaseyTrump: 'Good news' that Obama is campaigning again Obama to hit campaign trail in Pa. for gubernatorial, Senate candidates Trump is wrong, Dems are fighting to save Medicare and Social Security 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 KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineThe Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — GOP again has momentum on Kavanaugh rollercoaster Poll: Kaine leads GOP challenger by 19 points in Va. Senate race GOP offers to ban cameras from testimony of Kavanaugh accuser 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 SmithDavid (Adam) Adam SmithOvernight Defense: Mattis dismisses talk he may be leaving | Polish president floats 'Fort Trump' | Dem bill would ban low-yield nukes Dems introduce bill to ban low-yield nukes Dems seek ways to block Trump support for Saudi-led coalition in Yemen 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 McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellKey GOP senators appear cool to Kavanaugh accuser's demand Trump hints at new executive action on immigration, wants filibuster-proof Senate majority The Hill's Morning Report — Sponsored by United Against Nuclear Iran — The Hill interviews President Trump 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 SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsHillicon Valley: Trump cyber strategy lets US go on offense | AT&T urges court to let Time Warner merger stand | Conservatives want wife of DOJ official to testify | Facebook, nonprofits team up to fight fake news | DC camera hacker pleads guilty Vote Democrat in midterms to rein in Trump, preserve justice Sessions limits ability of judges to dismiss deportation cases 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 FlakeJeffrey (Jeff) Lane FlakePoll: More voters oppose Kavanaugh’s nomination than support it Ford opens door to testifying next week Police arrest nearly two dozen Kavanaugh protesters 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 DurbinRichard (Dick) Joseph DurbinGrassley to administration: You must consult Congress on refugee cap Overnight Health Care: Senators target surprise medical bills | Group looks to allow Medicaid funds for substance abuse programs | FDA launches anti-vaping campaign for teens Bipartisan group wants to lift Medicaid restriction on substance abuse treatment 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.