Has social media changed the way things get done in Washington?

October 15, 2013, 10:39 PM UTC

FORTUNE — “Imagine a CEO who hates the company.” That’s how lobbyist Liz Robbins described Tea Party Republicans while speaking at Fortune‘s Most Powerful Women Summit on Tuesday, noting that voters have elected people who won their seats by running against the idea of governing.

The debt ceiling debate and the government shutdown were the major topic of conversation in the “Everything You Want to Know About D.C.” session. Hilary Rosen, managing director of SKDKnickerbocker, predicted that negotiations would go right up to the Oct. 17th deadline. “You use every deadline you can in Washington to force your way,” she said. Juleanna Glover of The Ashcroft Group said she thought a default was possible.

MORE: Complete coverage of the Most Powerful Women Summit

Conversation then turned to how people get their voices heard. The moderator, PBS NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff, asked panelists how social media changes the way things get done in Washington. Rosen noted how the increased scrutiny is influencing the current crisis in Congress, and that because of the social media arena, “the deal they’re shopping has been been tweeted and opposed” before it even has a chance. “It’s the message, not the news,” said Robbins of social media.

Social media has also allowed for one voice to become incredibly powerful. Rosen cited Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Pakistani education activist Malala Yousafzai as prime examples of this phenomenon. Conversely, automated emails generate thousands of messages to Congress while a few years ago, 50 handwritten letters would indicate the electorate’s sentiment.

There is a way to cut through the noise: “The power of the people exists, but it’s gotta be a phone call,” said Glover.