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WWAY Goes to Washington: Who represents us in Congress

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What goes on in our nation's capital has a big impact on our lives. But lately, decisions from Washington, DC, have been of particular importance as we deal with a huge financial crisis. So how do you know your voice in being heard? Last week, NewsChannel 3 traveled to Washington and talked with the two men and one woman who represent us in Congress. In the first part of this special report, we find out who they are and how they serve us. They are your direct link to the halls of power in the nation's capital; the three people elected to serve you in Congress. Mike McIntyre, a Democrat from Lumberton, represents southeastern North Carolina's Seventh Congressional District. "I treasure the opportunity, because southeastern North Carolina is home,” McIntyre said. “It always has been, and my family's been there now for about 200 years." First elected in 1996, McIntyre is in his seventh term in Congress; always racing to keep up with the frenetic pace required to serve what he calls a very diverse district. "You not only are up here working on issues that directly affect your constituents for them, but then you've got to be that spokesman for your district to other districts and, indeed in many cases, of course, to other states as issues go to the floor of the House," McIntyre said. It is a lengthy process that gets those issues to the floor of the House or Senate, where any number of procedural or substantive maneuvers can change a bill or even kill it. That is why they say laws, like sausage, are things you should never see made. "The average person who watches Congress and what members do, and how the process works would say, 'I'd never do it that way,'" Sen. Richard Burr said. Burr knows something about doing things the way others would not. Just look at his car: a 1974 Volkswagen Thing without a roof. It has become a popular sight on Capitol Hill during the Republican's five terms in the House and his first in the Senate. "It allows me something non-traditional in a very traditional institution in a very traditional town," Burr said. But Burr said the tradition of Congress, and specifically of the Senate, as slow as it may go, is the right way to go when making laws. "At the end of the day," he said, "our Founding fathers believed it should be difficult in the Senate for legislation to become law." The tradition is evident in his stately office, where Burr spends time with staff, on the phone, and visiting with constituents. "Life in the United State Senate is like Groundhog Day the movie," Burr said. "It's the same day in and day out: different people; a different committee; a different group that you speak to; but the routine is pretty much the same." While Congressman McIntyre and Senator Burr enjoy relative comfort in their offices, life has been much different so far on Capitol Hill for freshman Senator Kay Hagan; tucked away in temporary offices in the basement of a Senate office building. "In one office I have six people," Hagan said. "And in my office, it's a nice office, but there are no windows, and there's people right behind me having meetings in the hall day in and day out. It's very congested." Hagan and her staff are not letting that congestion slow them down. Like her Tar Heel State colleagues, the Democrat's schedule is jam packed; and then there's learning the ropes of her new job. "I served for ten years in the State Senate. I've been here for about seven-and-a-half weeks," she said. "It's entirely different. Totally different.” Hagan said presiding over the Senate from time to time has helped her learn the rules and the names and faces of her Senate colleagues. Once she gets into a new office, she plans to welcome more constituents during an open house each Wednesday morning she calls, Carolina Coffees. "Anybody in Washington that's here on the Hill: an advocacy group or whatever reason they're coming to town, I would like for them to stop by, have a cup of coffee; talk to me about their issues," Hagan said. Hagan hopes her chance to pick office space will come up this week. When it does, she will have eight hours to choose, but it will be probably another month before she moves in and can start her Carolina Coffees. Now that we have met our representatives, Wednesday we get down to business. We will hear from Hagan, Burr and McIntyre about the federal economic stimulus plan and what they are doing to make sure money gets where it is needed.

Part One - WWAY Goes to Washington: Who represents us in Congress
Part Two - WWAY Goes to Washington: NC representatives discuss the stimulus plan
Part Three - WWAY Goes to Washington: NC representatives and their priorities
Part Four - WWAY Goes to Washington: The President and Congress

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