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Californians are keeping their lawmakers' phones ringing: 'They really hate Donald Trump'

Californians are keeping their lawmakers' phones ringing: 'They really hate Donald Trump'
Rep. Tom McClintock (R-Elk Grove)faces crowd of protesters at a town hall meeting. (Randall Benton / Sacramento Bee)

The phone in Rep. Tom McClintock's office rang seven times in 10 minutes Tuesday afternoon.

"This is Congressman McClintock's office, how may I help you?" the receptionist said again and again, scribbling down each caller's name, address and comment. "This call means a lot to us. I'll express that to the congressman."

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Members of Congress have been inundated with phone calls and emails in the scant weeks since President Trump took office, with staff answering two to three times as many calls and emails as normal.

Some are organic outpourings from constituents concerned about the new administration. Others are inspired by the progressive groups that have formed as an outlet for angst about what the Republican-led Congress will do with a Republican White House.

McClintock (R-Elk Grove), who was escorted out of a town hall Saturday by police when the crowd got rowdy, said the calls are coming from constituents as well as people outside his district. He compared it to the flood of calls after the 2008 election — the last time the presidency changed hands.

"It's the mirror opposite of 2009. When the Democrats were in charge, people opposed the administration, [there was a] huge uptick, and now it's reversed: Republicans are in charge and [there is a] huge uptick in opponents of the administration," McClintock said. "They really hate Donald Trump and they're really mad about the election."

Much of the increase has been directed toward the Senate, especially as it considers Trump's Cabinet nominees.

Sen. Kamala Harris received more than 251,000 calls and emails since the inauguration, mostly asking her to vote against Trump's Cabinet picks. She received more than 105,000 calls, emails and letters on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, most urging her to vote "no" on the nomination, which was approved only after a tie vote was broken by Vice President Mike Pence. Sen. Dianne Feinstein heard from 96,000 constituents on DeVos.

"I heard you all loud and clear, and I want you to know that I am here to serve you and I will continue to be your voice," Feinstein said in a statement.

They really hate Donald Trump and they’re really mad about the election.


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House members are getting their fair share of calls as well.

Rep. Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles), a former community organizer, said so many constituents have reached out to her by phone, mail and in person that she has scheduled two extra town halls next weekend. Her staff said the office received 1,140 constituent calls in January, far above the 252 they received in the two weeks the office was open in December.

Bass is encouraging her constituents to contact Democrats and Republicans, saying all members of Congress need to hear their concerns.

"I feel like I have to bring people together," she said. "People are so frightened by this man that they look to me, literally, to reassure them. I'm trying to figure out how to be constructive in this process, and it's tough to reassure people when I'm not necessarily feeling reassured."

Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) said that at the moment she's hearing from constituents about Trump's executive order banning entry to the U.S. by migrants and visitors from seven predominantly Muslim countries.

"Generally it's people calling to say, 'We've got your back,'" Brownley said. "People are really activated in the district, people are yearning to gather together. I think people are just very anxious to have their voices heard and are trying to figure out the most effective things that they can be doing."

Multiple staff members were answering calls in Brownley's office Tuesday afternoon.

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"I really appreciate you took the time to call," an intern said after listening to a caller. "Your voice still very much matters and very much contributes."

Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter's Washington office has had a slight uptick in calls from outside his suburban San Diego district, chief of staff Joe Kasper said, "but contact from within our district? Nothing has changed."

Many Democrats calling are asking Hunter to hold a town hall meeting, a request that's popping up in a lot of offices. Hunter normally holds at least two in-person town hall meetings a year, as well as three telephone town halls. Kasper said the congressman feels no rush to hold a meeting, especially if he feels it won't be constructive. Some of the progressive groups have been mimicking the town hall tactics used by the tea party to oppose the Affordable Care Act in 2009.

"They're doing it with the specific purpose of trying to create a public event which they can attend and agitate," Kasper said. "We're not going to adjust the way we do things just because there is a group out there looking to make a scene."

Rep. Steve Knight (R-Palmdale) has personally been taking some of the calls to his office, and he said that as he gives callers more information, specifically about which parts of the Affordable Care Act Republicans want to keep, they seem to calm down. Many calls are indeed about the healthcare law, he said, and there was a bump in calls when Trump's entry ban was instituted. On Tuesday, Knight's staffers were urging people to email and then follow up with a phone call.

"We want to hear from people. If no one says anything, do we know we're doing good by them, bad by them, whatever? We like to hear," Knight said. "A lot of people don't call but think that we're doing a good job. You've got to be committed to what you're doing and that what you're doing is right, but also you've got to have a pulse on the district."

Follow @sarahdwire on Twitter

Read more about the 55 members of California's delegation at latimes.com/politics

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