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Rolly: Amid the shutdown, Chaffetz lies low, Lee hides out

Published October 14, 2013 1:50 pm

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

One observer noted that among the most significant examples of the fallout Republicans are suffering because of their damaging stands against Obamacare — no matter what the consequences of their actions — is the relative silence of usually media-hungry Jason Chaffetz.

Reader Scott Wells noted that the Utah congressman representing the state's 3rd District has not tweeted about Benghazi since Sept. 19. We need to get the government back open and get past the latest debt-ceiling crisis so Jason can return his focus to what it should be on: his Benghazi obsession.

Indeed, Chaffetz has laid low.

And, several readers have noted, his constituents can't contact him to tell him about their views of the shutdown or find any of his staffers to rail at.

Calls to Chaffetz's Washington office go unanswered. Same with his Provo office. A reader who went to the congressman's Cottonwood Heights office found it shuttered, with no employees.

He can blame the shutdown for having to furlough his employees, but he is the only member of Utah's congressional delegation who does not have a functioning office anywhere. None of his constituents has access to him or his staff.

Calls to Congressman Rob Bishop's Washington and Ogden offices get answered by polite receptionists. Bishop's actions on the government shutdown might be as reprehensible as those of Chaffetz, but at least his staffers answer the phone.

Rep. Chris Stewart's Salt Lake City office also answers phone calls, although calls to his Washington office receive a voice message saying that, due to the shutdown, the office is not being staffed and callers should instead harass Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Congressman Jim Matheson, the lone Democrat in the delegation, has kept all his offices open, and his constituent-services operation is still going strong.

Sens. Mike Lee and Orrin Hatch likewise have their offices open, but while one reader told me Hatch's receptionists were helpful and willing to listen to his complaints about the Republicans' shutdown strategy, Lee's receptionist in the Utah office hung up on him when it became clear he wasn't going to be one of the senator's sycophants or send him money.

Lee appears to be cracking from the pressure of the mounting anger toward him.

His communications director, Brian Phillips, told a reporter for the Deseret News that not only would Lee not comment about recent polls showing the senator's approval rating sinking fast, but also Lee would not grant an interview if the reporter even broached the subject.

By speaking only with Fox News, Glenn Beck and others media types who encourage them and avoid weightier questions, such Republicans in Congress live in an echo chamber and have lost touch with average Americans.

prolly@sltrib.com