By Ben Olson
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) recently delayed the vote on the Republican leadership’s attempt at repealing the Affordable Care Act until after the July 4 recess.
While members of Congress are under no obligation to release call data, some Democratic senators have reported data showing the actual numbers of constituents that have phoned or written for or against the repeal plan. Politico reported New Hampshire’s Sen. Jeanne Shaheen received 5,569 contacts about the bill – 5,461 of them had been opposed. Democratic senators from Virginia, Maryland, Illinois, New Mexico, Nevada and West Virginia have also tweeted statistics about their responses from constituents.
Republican senators, on the other hand, have not been so forthcoming.
When emailed for comment, both the office of Sen. Mike Crapo (R-ID) and the office of Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) declined to offer any specific data showing the number of contacts they’d received in relation to the health care repeal bill. Both offices also declined commenting on what proportion of contacts they’d received had been in favor of or opposed to the bill.
“We do not release data on constituent contact to the office,” wrote Lindsay Nothern, communications director for Sen. Crapo. “Some Idahoans want to return to a free market healthcare system and some Idahoans want to have a government-managed single-payer system. Senator Crapo has carefully reviewed the provisions of the bill, and he is supportive of repealing Obamacare and replacing it with a free market healthcare system.”
In a follow up call, Nothern stated that one major reason for not releasing the calls is privacy.
“We don’t release the data of these calls to protect our constituents’ privacy,” Nothern said. “There is no good way to generalize where people are coming from on these issues, since they are all over the map.”
“Each day, our office received phone calls from Idahoans and Americans across the country on a wide range of issues, including health care,” wrote Kaylin Minton, communications director for Sen. Risch. “We do not release details of correspondence. However, Senator Risch considers every comment received by Idahoans and is very grateful to those who have taken time to share their opinion with our office.”
In a follow up email, Minton wrote, “[Sen. Risch] often received large volumes of correspondence from individuals with concerns on specific issues such as health care, but he also receives a significant number of form letters, mass mailings, emails, faxes and calls from all over the country. … [Sen. Risch] seeks to understand Idahoans’ wishes but relying solely on raw numbers, when it comes to the bottom line, would be somewhat deceitful and inaccurate.”
Risch’s office also included a statement about the health care process: “Obamacare has proven to be completely unsustainable. Since the beginning, Senator Risch has said this law must be replaced with a health care system that meets the needs, desires and wants of the American people – not the needs, desires, and wants of the government.”
To date, only one GOP senator has released actual data on call numbers. Chris Gallegos, the communications director for Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MISS), wrote, “Since last Thursday, the Cochran offices have received approximately 224 constituent calls against and two in favor of discussion draft of the healthcare bill.”
Whether or not calling or writing the Senator’s office remains a viable means of sharing opinions, around 150 people voiced their concerns the old-fashioned way Wednesday.
“We had 150 protesters outside the office in Boise today,” said Sen. Crapo’s communications director Nothern.