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'Hello, This Is Your Senator Speaking. No, Really'

Many congressional staff members have been furloughed by the government shutdown. But that hasn't stopped the phones from ringing, or tourists from visiting.

So members of Congress have been forced to take on some additional responsibilities this week, in addition to legislating — the kinds of tasks typically handled by junior staffers and interns.

Sens. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Dean Heller, R-Nev., are among those personally answering their office phones.

Heller even sent out a photo of himself talking to constituents over the phone on his official Twitter account Wednesday, encouraging his colleagues to do the same. And Manchin, who had to downsize his office from 27 staffers to 11, according to ABC News, also shared a photo of himself taking calls in a tweet Thursday that included his office phone number.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., told NPR he, too, has taken over some of the phone-answering duties in his office with much of his staff at home.

"I can say that we're having a balance of positive and negative calls that I'm personally answering," he said.

Other members of Congress with a suddenly skeletal staff have begun leading tours of the Capitol building for their constituents, a job often left for interns to handle.

Sens. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., and John Boozman, R-Ark., each took a break from the budget battle Thursday to show residents of their respective home states around the Capitol, which remains open during a shutdown, unlike the national monuments and museums in Washington.

Tamara Keith contributed to this report.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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