The White House's public comment phone line is no longer accepting calls amid the ongoing US government shutdown and has updated its voicemail message to blame Democrats for it. The comment line allows citizens to leave a voice message for the president at (202) 456-1111.
Callers on Sunday (21 January) were greeted with a rather different voice message that is making waves on social media.
"Thank you for calling the White House," the recorded message says. "Unfortunately, we cannot answer your call today because congressional Democrats are holding government funding, including funding for our troops and other national security priorities, hostage to an unrelated immigration debate. Due to this obstruction, the government is shut down."
The recording then advises callers to send an email to the White House instead before the call ends.
Following an unsuccessful vote to extend government funding for a month, Democrats and Republicans have vehemently blamed the other side for causing the shutdown.
Democrats have opposed any government funding that does not address the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) programme for "Dreamer" immigrants. Meanwhile, Republicans have accused the other side of holding government funding "hostage" and won't agree to a DACA fix until the Democrats give in on some border security enhancements including funding for President Donald Trump's US-Mexico border wall.
The federal government shutdown has placed "non-essential" government employees on furlough or work without pay until Congress reaches a spending agreement.
It is still unclear how long the political standoff will last. During the last government shutdown in 2013, over 850,000 workers were forced to stay home during the 16-day shutdown.
However, many social media users expressed shock and outrage over the White House's new partisan voicemail recording with some calling it "childish", "disgraceful" and "dangerously un-American".
"My god... where does the childishness end?" one Twitter user wrote.
"@realDonaldTrump and his administration treat this job like vengeful children not getting their own way. Everything they do, like this phone message & their new ad, makes them look so incompetent, blaming everyone else because they're not doing their jobs," another added.
Some people questioned whether the message is legal and if it violates the Hatch Act of 1939 by using a publicly-funded phone line to promote partisan messages. The law prohibits federal employees from engaging in partisan political activities. However, it does not apply to the president and vice-president.
Ian Bassin — former associate White House counsel to President Obama and the founding director of Protect Democracy —said: "It's very abnormal, but likely not a violation of law. WH is allowed to call out congressional caucuses on policy."
"They're all but openly declaring civil war. Insanity!" another user said.
"We really are trapped in an episode of #BlackMirror", one person chimed.