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Americans answer Obama's call, contact lawmakers

By Christopher Doering

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Americans wasted little time on Tuesday answering President Barack Obama's request to make their voice heard on the looming debt crisis, crashing websites with e-mails and flooding the telephone lines of lawmakers in Washington with thousands of calls.

Some lawmakers' websites went down due to the high traffic, including those for House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, the top Republican in Congress, and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, a favorite of the conservative Tea Party movement that has steadfastly rejected compromise.

The website for Republican Senator Jim DeMint, who has questioned the need to rush into a deal to raise the debt ceiling, crashed in the morning. Phone calls to the House's main line yielded a longer ring or a busy signal.

Calls peaked between noon (1600 GMT) and 1 p.m. EDT when the House received about 40,000, according to Dan Weiser, the communications director for the Chief Administrative Officer in the chamber that handles behind-the-scene tasks.

On a normal day, he estimated the House receives about 20,000 calls an hour. The surge on Tuesday began around 9 a.m. EDT (1300 GMT) and continued for about five hours before returning to more normal levels later in the afternoon.

"We're getting hundreds of calls today on the president's speech last night. Most folks just want Congress to act," Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Nelson's spokesman Dan McLaughlin said the phone calls to his office have been "back-to-back heavy" and e-mails totaled about 5,500 in the morning -- both higher than normal.

Most people, he said, supported the president, but "they also just wanted the matter resolved."

Steve Wymer, a spokesman for Senator Mike Johanns, said those that have contacted the Republican's office were eager for a solution and have called on stronger leadership from the president.

"The theme (of the calls) is general, expressing their thanks (to Johanns) for calling on the president to lead and stop the lecturing speeches and actually put out a plan," Wymer said.

During his half-hour speech on Monday evening, President Obama asked Americans to let their voice be heard.

"If you want a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, let your member of Congress know. If you believe we can solve this problem through compromise, send that message," Obama told the country.

Delaware Senator Tom Carper, a Democrat, said he also has had a wave of phone calls.

"One of the recurring themes in the conversations I've had with people deals with addressing symptoms or fixing the underlying problems. You can work on the symptoms all day long -- you need to cure the disease," he said.

(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan and Deborah Charles; Editing by Will Dunham)

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