9:16 am. Charlie Stenholm meets with 10 staffers. Five women, five men. Feverishly taking notes, outlining issues, listening to Charlie. "I don't think we should give tax breaks to those that are shifting jobs overseas," he says. The pow-wow is productive but brief. It's over in only eight minutes. "We'll back to work," he says.
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With a swing of his blazer, he's off. The destination? The Ag committee staff. 9:31, round two of briefings. "Dairy? Any further movement regarding the dairy bill? And what about the appeal of the WTO decision on cotton?" he asks.
In the hallways it is meet and greet, and pick up an endorsement. "I hope all the folks out in Lubbock do the right thing. Charlie Stenholm, great member of congress," says a supporter.
Outside however, its not exactly buddy-buddy. DC residents are protesting a vote on the Hill which would remove the ban on assault weapons. Back inside, Stenholm has made his way to the Armed Services Committee. The topic? The need for a National Intelligence Director. "Since the release of the 9/11 commission report, there has been considerable confusion and debate over exactly how our intelligence community operates and who controls what," says the chairman.
The meeting will last all day, but Stenholm has multiple obligations. For the next three hours, it's keep up with the congressman. First, its over to the Ag committee, grilling bankers on the farm bill. "How will the farm credit services of America benefit from this sale by exiting the system and leaving behind a reported $800 million of stockholder's money?" he asks.
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Then its back to the Hill to vote on...something. "What are you about to vote on?" we asked. "I don't know right now. I won't know 'till I get there," he responds. Turns out it was the gun issue, of which, Stenholm is a staunch defender of the right to bear arms. "I just believe the second amendment should apply to the people of DC as well as to the people of Texas, and I vote that way," he says.
Back in the Ag committee room, Stenholm urges cooperation. "Look for ways to work together for the benefit of rural America," he says.
By the time he gets back to Armed Services, a political war has begun. "Mr. Cooper, we gave you a lot of time. Now why don't you let me complete my statement?" says the angry chairman. The contention in the air drags the meeting past 7:00 p.m. Eventually there is a vote on whether or not to declassify the budgets fo the CIA and other intelligence agencies. Stenholm votes to keep it secret. "Intelligence by its very nature need to be semi-secret in all aspects and totally secret when it comes to the lives of the men and women who are involved in it," he says.
Finally, back in his office at 7:33, Stenholm calls it a day. He's been doing this for 26 years, and he's hoping for 27. "All right, good night," he smiles.