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Constituents Find It Tough Calling Feinstein and Boxer


WASHINGTON — Many frustrated Californians tried in vain over the last few days to register their views on President Clinton's deficit-reduction plan with their two U.S. senators. All they got was a busy signal.

The telephone troubles turned into a partisan hot line Friday when State Republican Party officials accused Democratic Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein of taking their phones off the hook and disconnecting their fax machines.

Officials for both senators called the allegation nonsense.

While the two senators both favored the Clinton budget package, calls to their offices in Washington and California have been running about 3 to 1 against the legislation, according to staff reports. In recent days, calls to Boxer's office have been running nearly even.

Boxer's offices in Washington and California reported receiving 5,630 calls on Thursday alone, about three times the normal average, a spokeswoman said. About 16,000 calls were logged at Feinstein's Senate offices this week.

And those were the ones that made it through.

In a prepared statement, California Republican Party Chairman Tirso del Junco blasted the two senators for "taking their Capitol Hill phones off the hook and turning their backs on their constituents. They don't want to hear what the people of California think about Clinton's tax and spend package."

Boxer spokeswman Linda Marson replied: "What they are saying is completely untrue. It is absurd. We would never allow that to happen."

"Sen. Feinstein would never allow staff to put calls on hold or disconnect phone lines in any way under any circumstances," said spokesman Bill Chandler.

Both senators said that they were doing everything possible to field as many calls as possible. In Boxer's case, 10 employees were assigned to take calls--twice the normal number.

Actually, the complaints are nothing new. Both senators have grappled with overloaded Senate telephone systems since they assumed office in January.

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