WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama asked Americans to reach out to Congress to make their voices heard on the debt ceiling debate -- and so they did.
Thousands of callers flooded the Capitol switchboard Tuesday, and email traffic swamped congressional servers. The website of Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., crashed briefly, as did those of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-N.C.
The Capitol, which typically handles 20,000 calls per hour, saw spikes of up to 40,000 Tuesday, rivaling the 50,000-an-hour rate of the health care debate.
"Congress and Capitol Hill have been flooded with emails and phones, switchboards are jammed, servers going down. So it's clear the American people are frustrated by the lack of compromise in Washington," said David Plouffe, the president's senior adviser, who was getting the response the White House had sought when the president on Monday called Washington a town "where compromise has become a dirty word."
The details of their opinions varied widely, but callers and emailers across the country seemed to agree with the president, who warned Congress that even if Americans voted for divided government last fall, they didn't vote for a dysfunctional government.
Those heeding the president's advice to make their voices heard on the debate had one common refrain: Get it done.
"Most folks just want Congress to act. I agree," said Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who intends to support the debt plan that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., has put forward. Reid's plan and a separate proposal by House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, could come up for votes as early as Thursday.
Rep. Tim Scott's South Carolina district is predominately Republican, but his office phones were ringing nonstop with calls from many Democrats and independents in response to Obama's appeal.
"We're definitely hearing from both sides," said Sean Smith, a spokesman for Scott, who holds a House of Representatives GOP leadership post representing the party's large freshman class.
"The congressman has even picked up the phone a couple of times himself today just to make sure people know he is hearing and listening to them," Smith said. "We have a fairly strong Republican district, but we're hearing from a lot of people who don't necessarily agree with 'cap and balance.' "
The House passed the "cut, cap and balance" bill, co-authored by fellow South Carolina Republican Rep. Mick Mulvaney, along party lines last week, but it has little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.