Updated: 5:25 p.m.House Web sites and phone systems were jammed to the point of failure this afternoon from masses of constituent e-mails and phone calls related to the impending health care reform bill, according to House offices and administrators.The calls apparently started after conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh gave out the main Capitol switchboard number on the air.An employee who answers phones at the House Office of Telecommunications, which maintains the chambers phone systems, said the switchboard has been inundated in every way.The system is being overwhelmed by calls, said the employee, who did not want to be identified because she was not authorized to speak with the media. There are a lot of calls coming in for health care.Roll Call obtained an internal e-mail sent by the House Chief Administrators Office to all system administrators notifying them of the difficulty and telling them to expect problems.Due to the high volume of external calls, House telephone circuits are near capacity resulting in outside callers occasionally getting busy signals, the e-mail states.CAO spokesman Jeff Ventura said every House Members office is experiencing the problems.When youre talking about land lines, they have a limited number of lines going into their office. Its pretty simple, he said. Once that capacity is reached, the callers are going to get a busy signal.Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) took to Twitter to tell callers to be patient and persistent.Phones and emails are going nuts on health care. If you get a busy tone or an error page at http://rehberg.house.gov please keep trying, he wrote.We have a couple of complaints from folks in Montana who are trying to get through and they get a busy tone, Rehberg spokesman Jed Link said. And some people said that when they click on the Web page, it doesnt load.Indeed, clicking on the E-mail Denny link on the Congressmans Congressional Web site yielded the digital version of a busy signal a blank white screen with bold black text reading, The server encountered an internal error and was unable to complete your request. Application server is busy. Either there are too many concurrent requests or the server still is starting up.The same error message popped up on the Web sites of other Members, including Reps. Kendrick Meek (D-Fla.), Chris Lee (R-N.Y.) and Joe Courtney (D-Conn.). Rehberg and those three are a few of the 75 Members whose e-mail service is maintained by iConstituent, a Los Angeles-based company that provides e-communication services for elected officials.Ventura said Members can choose to have their e-mail service maintained internally through the CAO or can opt for a private company. Ventura declined to name the company outright but confirmed that a third-party vendor is to blame for the breakdown.Right now, the sites that the House manages are not impacted, he said. Its a third-party vendor that hosts 75 sites and all the sites that they host are experiencing a volume issue with regard to their Web traffic, specifically having to do with the e-mail function of their Web sites.A representative from iConstituent was not immediately available for comment.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.