Fans pen Facebook wall posts to lawmakers on debt ceiling

July 27, 2011

They’re embarrassed and angry, worried and ashamed. Senior citizens are asking if they’ll receive their Social Security checks or Medicare support. Federal workers fear they won’t get their paychecks.

They are the Facebook army of congressional constituents who have jumped into action to tell their lawmakers how they feel as the debt limit battle moves into high gear. “Fans” of House members or senators, whether from their districts or their states or outside them (for better or for worse, you can join a lawmaker’s fan page whether or not you’re an actual constituent), are taking to cyberspace to write Facebook wall posts about the debt limit debate, for all the world to see.

On Rep. Mick Mulvaney’s Facebook page, Cheryl Mann wrote, “Can you people (Congress) please get it together & compromise already!” Mulvaney, a freshman Republican from South Carolina, was undecided as to how he would vote on Wednesday. “This is so embarrasing for the US!”

On Rep. Connie Mack’s (R-Fla.) wall, annoyed Facebook “fan”Kurt Maehlenbrock, chastises Congress for continuing to bicker.

“With all due respect to Connie Mack...All the senators and congressmen should be ashamed of themselves that they cannot get this economy started and fix the debt ceiling,” Maehlenbrock wrote.

Just under a week remains until the debt ceiling is set to expire on Aug. 2, meaning the government will default on its bills if the limit isn’t raised by Congress, and the long-running drama in Washington is apparently being closely watched by cyber-citizens.

In a Monday night speech, President Obama urged citizens to take to the phone lines and call their representatives to urge them to craft a compromise plan. And the Capitol switchboard was flooded with just such calls starting Tuesday.

But netizens have also been active, taking to social networks like Facebook to express their strongly-held viewpoints. Comments on some of Boehner’s wall posts have exceeded 10,000, with other lawmakers are also seeing comments and “likes” in the hundreds and thousands.

A new report by the non-partisan Congressional Management Foundation found that most lawmakers have fully integrated social media into their communications operations, and two-thirds of senior and social media managers think that Facebook is a “somewhat or very important tool for understanding constituents’ views and opinions.”

As of Wednesday, the path toward a deal was still murky, with Republicans apparently falling in line behind a deal still being hashed out by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) that may land on the House floor as early as Thursday. The Congressional Budget Office had rejected an earlier version of Boehner’s plan after it proved to cut less from the deficit than expected.

Meanwhile, the White House threatened to veto the first Boehner bill, and supported a measure by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

The battle raging in Washington has a mirror world on Facebook, where the comments on lawmakers’ fan pages are a similarly heated microcosm of the Washington debate. Skimming through comments of over 40 key players’ Facebook pages, the general feedback on all was similar — frustrated, worried and surprisingly bipartisan. Suggestions from both conservatives and liberals alike appeared on all Facebook pages, regardless of the lawmaker’s affiliation. Most commenters wanted to see a decision instead of additional debate and ultimately default.

On Mulvaney’s page, Mann said the perfect plan might be the enemy of the good. “Of course one thing is not going to [be] perfect, that's why you work something out, together. Plus, you may be messing with my money-I'm on SS Disability. I have a blood cancer, severe lower back pain, & nerve damage to one leg. This is my only source of income & is very important to me. I bet if your income was in jeopardy, you would move faster to resolve this!”

Mulvaney has yet to decide whether he supports Boehner’s developing plan, stating in an ABC interview that he is still “struggling” with the various plans.

Meanwhile, some Facebook fans of House Republicans seem to agree with conservatives that the Boehner plan to raise the debt ceiling is insufficient. They support a previous measure called “cut, cap and balance,” which passed the House recently, that would slash and restrict government spending and send a balanced budget amendment to the states.

On Boehner’s fan page, a disgruntled commenter, Keith Miller, wrote, “Hey Boehner! How about YOU get your ass in line and pass a REAL bill, one that actually makes cuts, doesn't pawn off debt negotiations to a committee, and forces government to downsize!”

Miller was referring to Boehner bluntly telling wavering GOP lawmakers in a closed-door Conference meeting on Wednesday to “get your ass in line” behind his debt-ceiling plan.

Much of the conservative House opposition has come from Republican Study Committee leader Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), who said Tuesday that the House wouldn’t be able to pass the first version of Boehner’s bill without Democratic support.

On Jordan’s wall, a disillusioned constituent wrote, “I am a former Republican for who it has become increasingly obvious that the GOP are no longer even pretending to be for anyone but the very richest Americans and multinational corporations. I am ashamed of what the party is becoming.”

Many other commenters have also tried to persuade still-wavering lawmakers, such as Reps. Scott Garrett (R-N.J.) and Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), to raise taxes or, conversely, to demand even larger cuts than the ones Boehner offered.

A fan of Mulvaney’s page, Gene Andrews, wrote “Mick, please don’t vote for the Speaker’s plan. We did the right thing with Cut, Cap and Balance! Hold the line!”

On Garrett’s wall, fan Jessica Kraskian expressed the opposite view , asking to “raise taxes, particularly on the wealthiest Americans and corporations.”

On Kingston’s wall, a single mother asked the congressman to “stand firm” against more spending and refuse any tax hikes.

A tour of key senators’ Facebook pages found similarly abundant comments, with equal conviction.

On Reid’s Facebook wall, comments varied, with fans arguments ranging about why the leader is allowing the “teabaggers” to win by excluding tax increases in his plan to demanding that he “hold the line” on entitlement programs.

Democratic senators on the fence about Reid’s debt-ceiling bill, notably Sens. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), have also been deluged with flurries of comments and calls.

A fan on McCaskill’s page provided her concise, to-the-point view on the debt debate.

“Cut, Cap, Balance. Stop stealing from people and spending money that you don’t have,” wrote Linda Laming on McCaskill’s wall.

On Manchin’s wall, many constituents urged him to avoid partisanship and work in tandem with Republicans to achieve an end to the crisis without default.

“Senator Manchin, please work with Republicans to raise our debt ceiling, even if it means political costs. The world is watching US right now, and if we default, it not only affects us, but the whole world,” wrote Joseph Lee Lackey II.

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