Capitol Hill Interns Accuse Congress Of Suppressing Cease-Fire Demands

The workers in 71 congressional offices have recorded a total more than 690,000 calls for a cease-fire, but most are “unnoticed and unheard,” an open letter said.

 
Congressional interns and fellows released a letter on Monday accusing Congress of having “suppressed and ignored” a tidal wave of constituent support for a permanent cease-fire in the Israel-Gaza conflict.

More than 140 interns and fellows signed the letter, and 71 disclosed the number of calls and emails in support of a cease-fire that their offices have recorded. Those 71 offices (out of the total of 535) have received a total of 693,170 messages supporting a cease-fire since Israel’s bombing of the Gaza Strip began in early October.

But in spite of constituents’ outreach, most senators and representatives have refused to publicly support a cease-fire — and privately, the letter said, many senior staffers responsible for briefing members of Congress are downplaying the number and intensity of the calls.

“In some cases, Members of Congress are not being adequately briefed about the volume or contents of these messages,” the letter says. “In several instances, senior staff have deliberately provided inaccurate information about these data to Members. In other cases, Members have willfully ignored the pleas of large swaths of their constituents.”

Congressional phone lines have been clogged with calls for a cease-fire almost since the very start of hostilities, staffers have previously reported.

Following a Oct. 7 attack on Israel in which Hamas killed more than 1,200 Israeli civilians and took more than 200 hostage, Israel has bombed much of the Gaza Strip. Israeli forces have killed an estimated 18,000 Palestinians, a large share of them children, according to the Gaza health ministry.

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The indiscriminate nature of the retaliation, coupled with the Biden administration’s steadfast support for its closest military ally, has sparked nationwide protests in the U.S. and profound outrage among many of the president’s own voters.

“While we refrain from telling our bosses how to do their jobs, as congressional interns and fellows, we owe it to the American people to expose the patent malpractice of Congress,” the letter says. “We can no longer stand by while the voices of constituents are suppressed and ignored by their elected officials.”

The letter came together after interns and fellows in several offices witnessed senior staff downplaying the number of calls and emails supporting a cease-fire, one of the letter’s organizers told HuffPost. In his office, a senior staffer quoted a number to the congressman that was 3,000 less than the actual number of callers, the organizer said.

“It’s very deliberate,” he said. “They see these overwhelming numbers, and they decrease it.”

Signers of the letter work in Democratic and Republican offices and are remaining anonymous out of fear of career retaliation. The organizers, who spoke with HuffPost on the condition they not be named, verified the identities of those who signed.

Because interns answer the vast majority of constituent calls, many of those who signed the letter have personally fielded thousands of calls from constituents demanding a cease-fire.

“Out of the tens of thousands of calls made to our office, one in particular stood out to me: A constituent called in tears to share that her husband’s family had been killed in a hospital bombing in Gaza,” wrote one of the letter’s signers. “She had pleaded with me to change the Member’s stance on the war.”

One intern told HuffPost she signed the letter out of frustration with what she sees as apathy in her office, in contrast to the outrage she was hearing on the phone.

“The desperation of constituents, the frustration of constituents day in and day out was really consistent,” she said. “A lot of times they’re angry, threatening to pull votes, threatening to organize against the member. I’m not seeing the seriousness of that reflected.”

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