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House administrators estimate that Capitol switchboard operators are fielding roughly 40,000 calls per hour from constituents and that perhaps just as many callers are experiencing busy signals a full day after radio host Rush Limbaugh gave his listening audience the Capitol switchboard phone number and encouraged them to call it.
That means that in an eight-hour window, the Capitol is being deluged with more than 300,000 phone calls, said Jeff Ventura, spokesman for the Chief Administrators Office. The barrage is about 10 times what the switchboard usually receives, he added.
This doesnt surprise me. Its going to be that way all week, until they vote [on health care reform]. No doubt about it, he said. For everyone who doesnt get through, theyll just say to themselves, Ill try again tomorrow.
Limbaugh continued his efforts to encourage constituents to call Congress, posting an article to his Web site called, Pedal to the Medal: Its Time to Flood Congress with Calls, E-mails. The article includes the switchboard number and a link to a National Republican Congressional Committee list of Congressmen that should be targeted as potential swing votes on the health care reform bill.
The telecommunications onslaught comes as the House prepares to vote on a health care reform bill as early as this weekend.
As long as the pundits, the Internet, the blogosphere keeps giving out the main number to the House and saying, Call the House, theyre going to call, Ventura said.
But he added that even if the House upgraded that capacity of the switchboard, this huge number of callers would still cause problems.
Even if there was the technology to put all these people on hold, they would sit on hold for a very long time, he said. Its not like House offices have a staff of 20 people manning the phones.
The problems first started Tuesday.