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Phone Problems Reported in Capitol

Problems with the Capitol’s phone system were reported on Friday afternoon, just as interest groups and citizens scrambled to lobby their legislators on the eve of a likely House vote on health care reform.

As of about noon Friday, busy signals and dropped calls plagued Congressional phone lines. The Capitol switchboard remains especially difficult to reach, with repeated redial attempts necessary to get to an operator.

Problems with the phone system are occurring at a particularly sensitive time, with many organizations making a last-ditch push to influence the outcome of the Saturday floor vote.

“A majority of our call in efforts don’t go through the switchboard,— AFL-CIO spokeswoman Amaya Tune said in an e-mail. “The website click to call and the toll-free number we distribute actually allow people to bypass the bottleneck and get connected directly to their member of Congress.—

The AFL-CIO is just one of many organizations running an 11th-hour lobbying effort. According to, at least 10 other groups have released action statements Friday encouraging citizens to call, e-mail or fax their Members of Congress.

Tom Kornegay, a spokesman for the Georgia Medical Association, said that his organization was encouraging all of its 6,000 members to call their legislators Friday to oppose the House bill.

Congressional support personnel seemed unaware of any problems, with one unnamed Capitol operator denying reports of any issues with the phone lines. And switchboard manager Mary Ann Williams seemed puzzled by speculation that high call volume over the health care bill could be causing a logjam, saying, “As far as I know, our call volume is no different than any other day.—

As of Friday afternoon, the office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms, which manages the phone system, has not issued any statement.