With the full Senate set to vote on Education Secretary nominee Betsy DeVos on Jan. 31, thousands of people from East Tennessee are calling their senators to weigh in.
The offices of both Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker, both Republicans from Tennessee, say they have been inundated with phone calls. Corker’s office said staffers have answered nearly 10,000 calls in the past week.
"If the agenda operating in Washington is not necessarily our agenda, our representatives need to know that,” said Susan Sneed, who lives in Maryville.
When Sneed called the local office for Sen. Alexander -- who chairs the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee overseeing the DeVos confirmation hearing -- she said could not get through to voice her opposition to DeVos.
"We're incessantly getting busy signals on phone calls,” she said. “If you do receive an answer, it's often a canned response."
The issue recently led her and several other Marvyille citizens to travel to Alexander and Corker's offices to hand-deliver their written concerns.
WBIR 10News called Alexander's Nashville and Knoxville offices on Thursday. A staffer did respond at the Knoxville office, but the Nashville voicemail was full and could not take any more messages.
In a statement, his staff wrote:
“Sen. Alexander’s staff are answering the office telephones as rapidly as they can, but there is an overwhelming number of calls, mostly from people with various opinions on President Trump’s cabinet nominees. This is true this week in the offices of many U.S. senators. We’ll keep answering the telephones as rapidly as possible, but there are other ways to communicate with the senator – including by email through the senator’s website or by a written letter.”
Over at Sen. Corker's office, staffers say they have answered nearly 10,000 calls this week between seven phone lines. “Every message received from a Tennessean through our website receives a response,” a staff member wrote to 10News.
Sen. Alexander has expressed his support for Betsy DeVos, though education leaders in East Tennessee remain divided on the nominee.
"Our most pressing concern is that she is categorically unqualified for the position,” said KCEA President Lauren Hopson on Tuesday. KCEA members say public schools could be negatively impacted by more families using vouchers to pay for private school.
But at Knoxville's The Goddard School, educators believe Trump and DeVos could help families by putting more money into voucher programs. The Goddard school does not take vouchers, but leaders at the Knoxville school believe legislation could change that.
“The facts, however, remain that she has never served in any capacity at any public school,” Sneed argued.
Mobile users can also use an app, Countable, to stay connected to Congressional happenings. The app allows users to contact and fact-check their representative as well as keep track of bills moving through Congress. Users can also check to see how their Congress members voted.
Sneed says no matter your political stance, the time to speak is now.
"It is so vitally important for citizens of any political stripe to take this opportunity and make your voices heard," she said.