Byron Dorgan in the Halls of Congress

Uploaded by PrairiePublicBcast on 14.01.2011

[piano plays in bright rhythm]
The thing I don't like about driving in Washington
is the traffic-- it's unbelievable.
You grow up in a town of 280 people,
you're not used to traffic.
I grew up never knowing a traffic jam.
So is this your group? (woman) Yes this is.
Hi, how are you? How are you?
Cory Ash from Texas. Nice to meet you.
I could hear a little bit of that! [all laugh]
(man) Funding for the production
of "Byron Dorgan in the Halls Of Congress"
is provided by a grant from Gate City Bank,
offering a full range of financial products and services,
available at any of Gate City's 32 offices across the region.
North Dakota Farmers Union...
...and the members of Prairie Public.
[horns honking]
[phone rings]
Senator Dorgan's office, how can I help you?
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) Life here is very busy.
There are so many people coming in from North Dakota.
They all want to come and have a visit, which is very important,
and I'm really pleased that we are able to do that,
but you have to fit all of that into
in many cases, 15-minute segments between hearings
and things on the floor and caucus meetings and speeches
and television appearances and all the things that you do
in a typical day, so it's a busy life, it is.
All right, we ready?
(woman) I help manage the senator's day and his work,
moving not only his calendar ahead
and make sure everything gets fit in...
Senator, it's good to see you. It's good to see you.
...and bringing to his attention things that need
immediate attention and sort of make the judgement
about the things that we can hold off on and act on later,
and of course, then help the senator manage the staff
and all the staffing needs,
and it's busy and challenging, but very interesting.
Good morning, how are you?
Just to summarize this story-- Lech Walesa comes to congress.
He said, we didn't have any guns.
The communist government had all the guns.
We had no bullets, they had all the bullets.
(woman) It's my responsibility to try to put together
his daily schedule and all that goes into it.
So I'm organizing meetings, working lunches,
juggling his hearings, speeches, breakfasts,
looking at the family schedule, just trying to balance it all,
and then coordinate too his travel plans
and make sure I've got him going where he needs to be.
My coworker Sylvia helps manage his day of schedule,
but I'm still pretty much involved
since I'm the one who started the project.
Sometimes people are still calling me.
But it's always a work in progress.
Ten years later, he shows up as president of his country.
That's leadership, isn't it? Isn't that something?
I mean, think of what it took to do that.
You're scheduled to meet with Ann and Alyson.
Alyson's in South Dakota today.
(woman) There are lots of changes.
Brian mentioned you wanted to reach Mark Patterson.
(woman) You have to start off just realizing that the whole day
is going to change, and you can't do anything about it.
First thing in the morning,
we start off with a perfect schedule
that Christy has worked very hard to put together,
and just about as soon as the day starts,
it starts to unravel.
I'll be there for an hour and a half.
Alyson mentioned that she had sent a letter
to Assistant Secretary Echo Hawk about coming out
to the reservation to visit about law enforcement issues.
So that was one thought, but they also want to do
a recognition event for your years of service.
They have wanted you at the college as well.
(Pam Gulleson) He's back and forth to the state
probably 30 to 35 weekends a year
so we are constantly working on the schedule
for trips home as well.
Eight o'clock dinner. Why at the Toasted Frog?
Oh I bet I know why, Sanders is not open on Sunday.
The next morning, we leave at 7:30 to Rugby.
What a lot of people I think miss and don't understand that
in many cases these jobs are 7 days a week and long hours,
and when I'm in North Dakota,
I travel somewhere around 30 trips a year to North Dakota,
back and forth, many of them weekends,
and when I'm in North Dakota, I travel a lot
because I'm trying to cover the whole state,
and so in addition to the things you have seen here,
there's a lot of travel,
and the travel part gets a little bit old.
Okay, I'll make sure I make those calls this afternoon.
Okay, I'll do that.
There's a request in Eric Arndt with KZZY
about Devils Lake and the Spirit Lake...
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) We do see a slow, but discernible progress...
(man) I definitely want to thank you
for FY9, FY10 were just outstanding.
(Sylvia Oliver) There are committee hearings
in the morning, sometimes 2 or 3 at a time,
so Christy starts planning the appointments at about
11 in the morning in 15-minute increments,
so appointments are scheduled from roughly 11 until 12:30
in 15-minute increments, and then usually
there's a caucus meeting over the noon hour,
and then at 2:00, we start up with hearings again.
Christy tries to get a sense of how long those hearings
will last, then the afternoon, we schedule appointments
at the back end of the day,
roughly from 3:00 on in 15-minute increments.
It allows North Dakota to have access to new water projects
it needs without authorization because it's self-authorized
in the program I wrote. So it's been a huge...
Eric Tweat and Wes Marquart.
We've got you down. We'll let him know you're here.
Thank you. Thank you.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) We work on a lot of things.
Right now today, I'm working on something that has
nothing to do with North Dakota, but it has
a tangential connection-- the issue of Cuba.
Some years ago, I got a bill passed,
first time in 40 years,
that allowed us to sell into Cuba.
Our farmers for the first time in 42 years were able to sell
dried peas from North Dakota into Cuba for cash.
It's the first crack in that embargo with Cuba.
So now I'm working to-- the New York Philharmonic
wants to perform in Havana, Cuba, and they came to me.
They're trying to get a license from the treasury department
to allow them to travel,
and the treasury department is being very bureaucratic,
and so I met with the conductor of the philharmonic.
So I've been on the phone today with treasury,
and I'm trying to get that resolved.
It's not like a farm problem in North Dakota
or working with businesses as we often do,
but the New York Philharmonic is America's great symphony.
They've performed in North Korea.
They've performed in Russia, I think it would be wonderful
if they could perform in Havana, Cuba.
So it's just one example of a little thing today
I've been working on, but there are a dozen or 2 dozen
exactly like that that you try to fit in between the crevices
of all the other things you're doing.
(man) Hi Senator, Justin Field.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) Justin, It's good to see you again.
(Justin) Thank you so much for taking time with us today.
I know you're awfully busy, but we're in town
for our annual conference as you know...
(Christy Beach) Byron always makes an effort to meet with anyone
from North Dakota who requests an appointment with him.
Springtime is much busier. Right now in the fall most
of the national organizations have had their members come out.
So it's a little bit more manageable, but oftentimes
getting the schedule to come together means layering appointments--
we usually try to do them back-to-back in
15-minute blocks, but sometimes I overlap it a little bit.
So he'll start one meeting in one conference room,
somebody might go into his office,
and then he'll try to jump in and go between them.
So it's kind of a constant juggling act.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) When North Dakotans come to town,
they have priority; they always get a meeting.
That's the priority, is meeting with North Dakotans, but
we have so many other requests that we just can't accommodate.
We put as many as we can in a day,
always in 15-minute increments, and you do as much as you can,
but there are about 80% of the requests from around the country
to come in for a meeting that we can't accommodate.
But that never applies to North Dakota
because it's fun over the years to see all these North Dakotans;
many of them come in year after year on the same issues.
Good luck to you. Thank you again.
Hi, the 12:00 appointment is here. Thank you. Bye.
Come on in. Have a seat.
(Sylvia Oliver) There is a staffer who's assigned
to each meeting, which helps in instances
where an organization may call Christy 3 months in advance
and say we're going to be in Washington,
could we set up an appointment?
The committee hearing schedules aren't set up very far in advance,
so Christy can set up a day beautifully, then we get
a committee hearing notice a week out saying oh by the way,
we have these committee hearings that we need to work around.
Senator Dorgan reminds us in the staff meetings quite often
that someone's visit to Washington or phone call
to Washington or letter to Washington may be the
only encounter that they have with their member of congress.
It may be the 8th appointment on his schedule for the day,
but it may be the first time they've ever come here.
So we try to remember what that's like,
and part of the reason a staffer is assigned to a meeting
is in instances where he's been called to the floor
because of a vote, or a hearing is running late,
and so the staffer will visit with the North Dakotan
about the issue, and if at all possible,
if Senator Dorgan is in an environment
where I'm able to interrupt him,
we communicate a lot by e-mail, and I'll send him an e-mail
and say you're 11:00 appointment is here.
Melissa's meeting with them now, they realize that you're
chairing this hearing that's still going late.
Do you have a sense of when it will wrap up?
He'll send me a note back,
and if the North Dakotan has the time in their schedule,
we walk them over to the committee hearing
and stand in the back of the room,
kind of let Senator Dorgan know that we're there,
and then he will step out of a hearing in many instances
to say hello to folks in the hallway.
(Eric Tweat) ...important enough that we'd like to encourage you to do
what you can to get those handled.
That's what we're here lobbying for, is a regular appropriation,
no question about that.
[soft whine of railcar wheels]
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) In the congress we have
the attention span of gnats,
30 seconds here, 30 seconds there.
So when there's a vote and
100 senators are on the floor,
it's looks a little like one of those ant farms
where everybody's scurrying back and forth
doing a lot of business during a vote,
talking to people about sponsorships, about issues.
I mean, there's a lot going on, obviously.
The whole place is full of activity.
I just took a call from the Treasury Department
during the meeting with the auto dealers.
Right now I'm working to get a license
for the New York Philharmonic to play in Havana, Cuba.
I've talked to Hillary about it. I've talked to Tim Geithner
about it; they're the ones that issue the license,
and they've been at this point not willing to issue the license
for the New York Philharmonic to go to Cuba.
So anyway, there's a lot of things going on.
I've been working this morning a little bit on that,
been talking to treasury to tell them--
I said if they don't get off the dime here
and do what they should do, I may go to the floor
and talk about it, which they won't like.
The New York Philharmonic is our great instrument of diplomacy
in many ways-- they've played in North Korea,
they've played in Russia,
and in February, they want to play in Havana, Cuba.
So I've been working on that. See if we can do that.
Do you have a witness list?
I do.
How many members will we have coming?
Congressman Levin is on his way, He's coming right now.
How many witnesses do we have?
We have 4.
Do they all speak good English?
Yes, all English speakers.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) Today we talking about trying to protect intellectual property
and new developments in counterfeiting, piracy,
of course, technology transfer.
I'm joined by my colleague
Congressman Levin, and Senator Feinstein...
(Pam Gulleson) He's got I think a really strong working relationship,
especially those members who've been here a long time,
and those from the other side of the aisle
where they worked collectively on important issues together,
and as you know, anytime you work with somebody on something,
you just really establish a nice working relationship,
and he has, and he has sustained that. consent also ask that the full statement
of Senator Carl Levin from the state of Michigan
be included in the media record at this point.
Ms. Lee, you've had time to think about that now.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and it's an excellent question.
It's one that has been...
(Sen. John McCain) The responsibilities of a chairman
is to set the agenda, which issues will
come before the committee and which won't,
and that's really sometimes very tough.
Of course, you have to approve the budget of the agencies
that are under you and make sure they're functioning,
but then the important thing is to set the agenda,
and when this Abramoff issue came up, Byron and I set aside
all the other issues and worked actually for a couple of years
on the Abramoff issues.
We uncovered a scandal that was really of enormous proportions
and obviously lasted up until just recently
when one of the last Abramoff "defendants" was convicted
and will be sent to prison.
We worked hard, we worked together,
and we were subjected to pressures from various areas
to not quite be so zealous, and Byron Dorgan never wavered
nor did he ever show
the slightest degree of partisanship.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) of which is the issue of international trade.
You may disagree with Byron Dorgan.
We've certainly had our disagreements.
He's a Democrat, and I'm a Republican,
but I never thought that Byron Dorgan,
when he took up an issue, and he did with passion,
ever came to the floor of the senate with anything in mind
other than what's the best thing for the people of this country
and the people of North Dakota,
and those were his only 2 motivations.
The impact? Americans out of work,
American job shift to China,
misery for American manufacturing workers
who used to have good jobs...
I was just over on the floor of the senate for a vote
and I talked to Lindsey Graham from South Carolina
on a water issue, we're friends,
he's a Republican, I'm a Democrat,
we vote differently on some things,
but the person-to-person contact
between senators on the floor is very cordial.
It's fair to say most of us like each other,
work with each other-- it's not that--
there's something else that has happened,
and that's kind of the external view of politics
and how it affects the voting
and the strategies inside the congress,
the strategies to decide-- we're gonna block these things,
we're not gonna let things happen because we've got people
that would be very angry on news shows, and others take us on,
so what we're gonna do is we're gonna block things, and that's
the kind of contentious thing that has happened in recent years.
Instead of having 2 people who think differently sit down
and say let's compromise, and getting the best
of what each party has to offer rather than the worst of both,
instead of that, what's happening is gridlock
at a time when the country can least afford it.
This country needs some nurturing and some good decisions
and some help to move forward and lift our economy up,
and the fact is we have this gridlock,
which is very disappointing.
One of the things we do as a delegation
that I don't know of any other delegation doing is,
we present a coordinated request for appropriations.
So we prioritize it, we agree on the entire list
and the prioritization of that list,
because in other states, they all submit a separate list,
and so then the appropriators tell them
senator A doesn't have that on his list,
or he has a different priority on his list,
therefore we're not going to fund it at all.
In North Dakota, they're presented with a united front,
and I think it's one reason we've been so successful
and why North Dakota gets
a disproportionate amount of federal assistance,
which is very meaningful in a state like ours.
It's nice to see you.
Good seeing you, Senator.
(Sylvia Oliver) We try to set it up ahead of time,
but Senator Dorgan may say you can have those folks
come in now, then my phone rings and it's the chief of staff
from the Treasury Department calling Senator Dorgan back,
and so everything is really spontaneous,
and it's very hard to follow a pattern for anything
because everything changes every 60 seconds.
(Lilly Ledbetter) This is a national epidemic in this country.
That's why this paycheck fairness is so important.
You're not like any other woman.
You have a piece of legislation named after you,
a supreme court decision named for you,
and it's taken a lot of courage...
There's somebody over there with my chart.
Senator Reid is going to go down and offer
a UC on food safety right about now.
The question is whether the Cobell case could move along.
I wonder if that's what they're asking.
I don't need to be at the hotel right now.
(Pam Gulleson) Senator Dorgan's pace is I think unduplicated by anybody I know.
It's just really unique to Byron.
He has always kept a pace that includes
probably 2 to 3 times more
than most normal people could.
It's just his natural inclination is
to try to fill the day as full as possible,
and he's so productive minded.
He can balance and manage,
multitask better than anybody I know.
He does it with ease, and of course, he's done it for so long
that it's just inherent in who he is.
I love coming to work everyday.
Sometimes I go home and I am just exhausted,
and I've talked to other staffers,
I'm not alone in that,
because everybody around here is going at that rate.
This is a physically demanding job
and mentally demanding too, to keep up with him.
You go home worn out.
You get up the next morning and you come right back.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) I've always been a very fast walker,
but that also is good exercise.
But that's my natural gait.
I want to get from here to there in minimum time.
There's a lot of walking here
because you're back and forth to a lot of meetings
and back and forth to the Capitol building,
and my staff always complains to me because I walk way too fast.
There's a lot of talk in politics and on the floor
of the congress always about something called
the American dream, people talk about the American dream,
and I suppose we reflect on that....
Byron is the hardest working person that I know,
the most productive person that I know.
He turns out enormous quantities
of very high-quality work.
It's very rare to find somebody
of his quality and his character in this business.
This country will not long remain a world economic power
unless you have world-class manufacturing capability,
that's just a fact, and the question is,
when will we stand up for this issue and decide that we have to
do something about the export of American jobs?
Paul Craig Roberts, someone I've met,
he was a former Assistant Treasury Secretary
under President Reagan, this is what he says--
(Sen. Dorgan continues) Outsourcing, he means outsourcing of jobs,
is rapidly eroding American...
(Barry Piatt) We have about 32 people, and that includes
people who work for him on committee staffs,
and then we have about 8 people
who work in the North Dakota offices.
So there are about 40 total.
Office staffs are allocated to senators
based on the state's population,
so it varies from state to state.
It's certainly standard for a state
the size of North Dakota's population,
but California senators would have much larger staffs
because they have millions of people as constituents.
It's today or never, so...
The fact is those of us in public service and public life
who are elected, we take all the bows
to the extent that there are successes,
but there are people who work for us, if you select well,
and I certainly have I think done that,
I've got some just outstanding people that work for me
and work with me, not so much for me,
and they work long hours, weekends, travel.
If people would know,
they would be mightily impressed with these folks.
Okay...thanks Laurie.
(Pam Gullison) When people reach out to our office
and ask for his assistance in solving a problem,
he takes that very personally and understands that it takes
a lot for somebody to call a U.S. Senator
or to call his office.
People don't do that very easily.
So the fact that they've taken that time,
he wants to make sure
he responds and does it promptly
and generally with a great deal of success.
I mean, he can maneuver his way
through the bureaucratic red tape
and get a solution to a Social Security problem,
a veteran's issue, better than anybody I know.
We actually got to participate in the
distracted driving summit yesterday.
Hold one second. Is he on the line?
Let me just talk to the Ambassador one second. Hello.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) The votes come up, and then a lot of telephone calls pile up.
Hi, Senator Dorgan calling the Ambassador.
People will call and you get 4, 5, 6,
in some cases 10 telephone messages.
I very often make a lot of telephone calls
at 6 or 7 in the evening on the way back home after a workday.
I like to use my phone, but the problem is I can't
use it in the morning because in western North Dakota
when I'm driving in, it's 5 in the morning,
or 6 in the morning in eastern North Dakota
so I do a lot of telephone return calls
in the evening when I'm driving home.
So is this your group?
Yes this is.
Hi, how are you?
Hello. How are you?
Cory Ash from Texas.
Nice to meet you. I could hear a little bit of that! [laughter]
(Sylvia Oliver) He's remarkable at switching gears,
and today he was meeting with North Dakotans
and got a return phone call from the Chief of Staff
at the Treasury Department
on an issue that he feels very passionately about,
and so brought a note in, and he excused himself
and took the phone call and dealt with that,
and then slipped right back
into his meeting with the North Dakotans.
(man) One more, ready?
One, 2, 3... [shutter click!]
All right.
(all) Thank you very much.
Thank you. Thank you.
Have a good dinner. Thank you.
Nice to meet you, Congressman.
In my office.
(man) It's fine with him if you approve this.
Okay, let's call...
OFAC has gone back and said oh, we need...
Let's call him tomorrow.
...we need somebody to change policy,
and that's a White House issue.
Okay, let's call him tomorrow.
(Sylvia) It's 6:15 right now and your daily...
I called this person already. Great.
How are you? I'm Byron.
Nice to meet you, Senator. Thank you.
I apologize. You've been sitting here, and I've been over there.
I'm supposed to go someplace soon.
So you're a friend of John Rosen?
A friend of John's, yeah. I just wanted to say
thank you for that speech on the floor.
My parents are small business people,
and they're trying to stay in their business.
I think we're gonna vote Monday night or Tuesday.
What's that?
Massive volume of paperwork,
and part of it is the ability to digest it all,
because during the day, there's not
very much time to pick something up and read it
and think about it and evaluate it,
and so most of that is for me, late in the evening,
and I take really, most senators I think do,
take big batches of paper for the evening.
All right, see you guys.
Off to dinner. See you later.
[a siren wails]
[birds sing]
(woman) Thank you, Jenny. I'm Mary Jordan,
the editor of "Washington Post Live,"
and few issues are as important to America
and the world as energy.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) Everything about a car has changed over these years
except we still have to put gas in the gas tank.
So when I walked in this morning, I saw the boat
sitting in front of this building and I thought
things are probably going to change.
The Dorgan-Alexander bill on Electric Vehicle Deployment Act
is something that I hope...
Senator Dorgan's office, can I help you?
(Christy Beach) If somebody calls our main line and they want to talk to Byron,
sometimes we try to understand a little bit about their request,
or if they have a problem, somebody in our state offices
can help with our casework issues,
but oftentimes, Byron will field those phone calls.
During the health care issue and so many people were calling in,
Byron had a slow day, and he actually stopped what he was
doing and sat up front and started fielding phone calls.
I don't think anyone knew it was actually the senator
on the line. He would just listen to them and be like
okay, well, thank you for your concerns.
I'll pass those along to the senator.
So it was kind of fun for us to see him doing it,
but it was also sort of like
oh my god, [laughs] just follow your schedule please!
Would it make more sense to try and do that in the Capitol?
We could do that in the reception room if we want, huh?
I don't know if that's an option.
Are you thinking of my hideaway office?
Hi, how are you doing?
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) You can't go in here though.
The Clean Energy Development Act, CEDA,
going back, Senator Bingaman and Senator Domenici
I think have provided great leadership of this committee.
I, as Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee...
(Sen. Pete Domenici) On the subcommittee, we did a lot of good work together
in a short period of 4 to 6 years that we worked together.
Once you're on the subcommittee together
and spend 4, 5, 6 years
in the senate with that relationship,
the essentials for friendship
and camaraderie and getting along
are supplied by the situations of just having to meet
for 2 hours a day and whispering and talking.
The institution is not a club like they say.
Clubs usually mean you learn to know each other.
You don't learn to know each other.
The senate work is work when you're in session.
As soon as you are not in session,
you get out of town, literally.
You either go overseas on a trip or go to a war zone,
and if you aren't doing that, you go campaign.
If you're campaigning, you go fundraising.
So it's a devilish life, and you're fortunate to get
a subcommittee opportunity to become friends.
We have a great team, and it's interesting that we all
keep each other informed about where he is.
So if he's at an Energy hearing, the Energy staff will literally
e-mail me and say, Byron's arrived at the Energy hearing,
he is the second one up to ask questions,
and so I'll tune my TV to the energy hearing
and watch him ask his questions.
Then I know he's supposed to be at Commerce next,
and so I'll tune my TV to Commerce
and e-mail the Commerce staffer who's sitting at that hearing
to say, Byron has just left energy, he's on his way
to Commerce, he should be there in 3 or 4 minutes.
And then in the middle of all of that,
we have 2 or 3 groups of North Dakotans who have
come in in-between, and the more creative I can be
with getting them connected with him, the happier he seems to be.
They are continuing to work on it,
and they delayed the release obviously.
What happened is, EPA put out its approval
of the sulfate level above Baldhill Dam.
I mean, it's not insignificant that the EPA has ruled...
If North Dakota reporters call and want to talk to him,
he talks to them.
I talk to reporters from other states
who find that hard to believe
because how often does a reporter from California,
for example, or New York,
get to pick up the phone and call and talk to
the senator directly to get their questions answered?
All right, well thanks a lot. Good-bye.
Give me just a minute, and we're going to go over...
And I'll meet you...
I need to talk to you about the trip, the hearing in Reno.
Yeah, I think we're going to...
I talked to Terry about that.
In fact, Terry may come to the hearing.
12:00 live, on the hour. So they want me there...
He has to have him there 10 minutes early.
Okay, I'll probably have to do it...
Tomorrow maybe?
Does she want a meeting or a telephone call?
I think a phone call would work.
Let's try this afternoon, see if we can find some time,
but if not, tomorrow morning.
All right. Thanks.
Jonathon danced around the issue.
He had to, as you've said.
He didn't have a choice.
He didn't have a choice.
See you guys later.
How ya doing?
Good. Thanks for being here, and I'm sorry
I couldn't be there for the whole thing.
I read your stuff. Thank you.
See if we can push it.
I know, I know. We need your help.
Barry, ah...
You've seen the post on this?
(Barry Piatt) All the time, it's hard to keep up with him.
I mean, he's always thought 2 or 3 steps ahead of most of us.
You've been walking in the halls with him today.
You know that literally it's hard to keep up with him.
He's a fast walker,
and he's got more energy than 3 or 4 people do.
(newswoman) We await a decision from senate democrats
on whether they'll hold a vote on extending the Bush tax cuts.
A lot going on in D.C.
Will this happen before the November elections?
Senator Byron Dorgan of North Dakota is chairman of
the Democratic Policy Committee, and he's our guest today.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) ...that Congress can answer,
but we gotta put the country back on track.
Let me just make the quick point;
even when you just extend the middle income tax cuts,
all tax payers including those above the $250,000
will have their tax rates cut
because you're adjusting the rates in the first...
What is extended? Is it all of it,
or is it just the up to $250,000?
I think those questions need to be answered,
but they certainly will be answered.
We appreciate your sentiments today, Senator,
and thank you for joining us, Senator Dorgan of North Dakota.
We'll talk again soon, lots of times in the coming weeks.
Thanks a lot.
Thanks, guys.
Thanks, Senator, appreciate it.
(Barry) Will the meeting be here in D.C. or...
Yeah, we have it here.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) How are you? (man) Good.
I thought your comment was interesting.
(Sylvia Oliver) Voting happens quite often, often without any notice,
and we have 15 minutes to get him to the floor.
We've got it down pat so that we know when there are
4 minutes left on the clock, he starts to run.
But then again, sometimes there's a North Dakotan
in the front office who might have a baby with them;
he stops and says hello, and we start to get nervous
and call the clerkroom and say, he's on his way.
Really, he's out the door.
(woman) Mr. Reid of Rhode Island--No.
Mrs. Boxer--No.
Mr. Brown of Massachusetts--Aye.
Mr. Warner--No.
Mr. Dorgan--No.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) The senate desks have great history.
In fact, when I was sworn in, I sat at a temporary desk
and I opened the drawer, you carve your name inside the desk,
it's been that way for a couple hundred years,
and I opened the drawer and saw "Harry S. Truman,"
and I thought man! From a high school class of 9
in a small Regent North Dakota high school--
now I have a desk in the United States Senate
previously occupied by Harry Truman.
That's a pretty big deal.
Then I got the permanent desk 2 weeks later
that has been my desk, and I opened the drawer
to see who's it was, I saw all these names,
and I saw Robert La Follette, the great Populist senator
from Wisconsin, and so I said to Senator Byrd,
the oldest senator and a real historian,
knows all the history, now departed of course, but I said,
"You know who's desk I've got? I've got Robert La Follette's
desk, the great Populist senator from Wisconsin," he said,
"Oh really? Do you know they tried to kill him at that desk?"
I said, no. He said, absolutely. So I wrote to the
Library of Congress, I said, do you have any information
about somebody trying to kill Robert La Follette?
From what I could understand, the information I got back,
May 29th 1908, just a little over a century ago,
he was on his feet doing a filibuster,
and he sent a page, which is a young student that works
in the senate, a senate page down to get a turkey sandwich
and a glass of milk. They brought it up--
you have to stand on your feet during a filibuster,
he'd been speaking 6 hours or so, and he took a little nibble
of his turkey sandwich and a sip of his milk and spit it out
and started screaming-- he had been poisoned,
and because he didn't drink it of course, he wasn't injured.
But they sent it away to a laboratory and they discovered
that something was in there that would've done him in.
They never quite figured out
how that happened or why it happened,
but Senator Byrd really whetted my appetite
for the history of Senate desks.
I've often told high school groups
the history of the senate through the desk.
Just across from my desk is the desk always occupied
by a Mississippi senator,
and in about 1860, Jefferson Davis stood up at that desk
and gave the succession speech
and then walked out of the Senate Chamber, and
other Southern senators followed him, and we we're at war.
He became president of the Confederacy,
and a Union soldier came to the senate about 3, 4 months later,
and after the Senate had adjourned they were touring
or something and he asked where was Jefferson Davis' desk--
he was so angry-- they said it was right over there.
He walked over, and he drew his bayonet
and he rammed his bayonet through this cherrywood desk,
and if we could go there right now, I'd show you
Senator Thad Cochran's desk with the little patched holes
of the bayonet from 1860, the Union soldier.
Or just behind me and down about 4 desks
is Robert Kennedy's desk.
But before Robert Kennedy sat there,
John F. Kennedy sat there,
and after Robert Kennedy sat there, Teddy Kennedy sat there.
The Kennedy brother's desk, 3 Kennedy brothers.
There's such great history, and as you can tell
I love history and love the history of the Senate.
Now I've locked us out.
(Sylvia Oliver) This room is used when we have meetings with North Dakotans.
It's close to the floor,
and it gives Senator Dorgan an opportunity to spend more time
in the meeting versus going back and forth to the office.
Senators were asked at the time of the inauguration
if they would be able to loan their office space for use
for dignitaries prior to the inauguration,
and Senator Dorgan said "Of course,"
so we knew that a space had been used,
but we didn't know for whom,
and we were looking in a magazine spread,
I believe it was "Time" magazine,
and came upon this photo of President Obama
adjusting his tie in a mirror,
and we looked in the reflection and there were the pictures
of North Dakota on the wall, and we realized it was his office,
Senator Dorgan's office that was used.
How are you?
Hello. Good to see you again.
Good to see you.
Hi, I'm Tamara Cameron.
How are you?
Sorry, I was delayed, I've been in a caucus. So welcome.
Can you give me a sense
of the timing on Fargo-Moorhead flood controls.
I know that there's been a delay announced.
(man) Stillhouse(ph) spoke to you last week, and we've
learned some information since he spoke with you.
We have identified that we can get to zero impacts downstream
by doing some things with the diversion, the alignment...
Coming with? Absolutely.
(Sylvia) So this panel started at 2:15.
They moved it like 4 times to suit your schedule.
So am I part of the extension of the panel?
You'll be in the last 15 minutes of the panel basically.
(Sen. Byron Dorgan) I'm going to Washington Hilton to give a short speech on energy
to a group at the Washington Hilton Hotel,
and every time I find myself doing this I wonder
why did I say yes to this? [all laugh]
And then have people like John who pushed me into saying yes--
I guess you didn't, did you?
(Sylvia) I think you say yes when you're actually...
(Byron) I try not to say yes to things like at the Washington Hilton
because it's so far away from the Hill.
Once you're here on Capitol Hill, you can't be more than
15 or 20 minutes away from Capitol Hill
unless you know the vote schedule,
and often the vote schedule is not scheduled
so they can call votes anytime. I happen to know now there are
not going to be votes during this period.
But you're stuck, you're stuck within a very short period
or very short geography, I should say, from Capitol Hill.
There are a lot of demands every day that you can't possibly meet
so you have to try to sort them all out
and determine what you can do and what you can't do,
and often, it means that you've got--
a lot of North Dakotans come in on the schedule.
They all want to come to the office and visit,
which is great, and we try to make sure that happens
and then fit that in-between committee hearings,
debate on the floor, and a whole range of other issues.
It's very hard to fit it all in.
I've got some really terrific people that help me
do scheduling, and then they manage the whole day.
Most of the days have 15-minute increments.
So it takes some really skilled people to manage all that.
[horns honk]
It's interesting how many people ask you
if every senator has a limousine.
[laughs] That's not the case... that's not the case.
The thing I don't like about driving in Washington
is the traffic-- it's unbelievable.
You grow up in a town of 280 people,
you're not used to traffic.
I grew up never knowing a traffic jam.
[phone rings]
Hi Hon, how are you?
Good. I just tried to call you a bit ago.
I just got the pictures with you
and the President from the White House.
Oh man, you looked beautiful-- they're great pictures,
they are great photographs, they couldn't be better.
But congratulations and...
Yeah, I love you too. See ya honey.
Yup, bye.
My daughter.
Since I move around sometimes, there's no place to park
and so Zach will take care of the car
and then come in to be a part of what I'm doing.
So what is that accent? Where are you from?
Honduras. Honduras
I've been there. Where are you from in Honduras?
La Ceiba.
I've been to Tegucigalpa, Azacualpa places like that.
I've been to the...
San Pedro Sula?
No, um, just trying to think of the bay,
the beautiful bay... Roatan.
We are very proud Roatan.
I ran out of gas in a helicopter in Honduras.
Oh my gosh!
We went to Santa Rosa de Copan.
Do you know where that is? Yes.
So we were flying from Santa Rosa de Copan--
Where are we going here?
Oh my gosh!
Well thank you very much. I just came from Capitol Hill
and was invited to say a few words about the topic
that you're on today.
I was speaking in Bismarck, North Dakota on Monday
at the Energy Expo that I organized.
It was the 5th year that I've been at the Energy Expo
where you bring all forms of energy together
and talk about everything.
But we're also I think gonna move towards natural gas
for heavier and larger vehicles.
We can make a decision about our destiny,
and energy is critical to our future.
There are a lot of things important to our future,
but this room wouldn't exist as it is without energy.
This discussion is front and center of what our country
needs to address, and so I appreciate very much
the invitation to come and say hello. Thank you very much.
(man) Hey Senator, have a good one.
All right, thanks a lot. Good to see you.
(Brian) We're gonna see if we can pencil in some time
for maybe 5:20, around there?
Yeah, well, except that I've got to go...
Fox News at 5;50 I think.
And I also have to do an interview with Prairie Public.
(Barry) Yup, and schedule meetings.
Hi Denise, it's Byron returning your call.
Yeah, no, I'm happy to do it. Let me ask you--
the only shot we've got at getting this is--
we've got to get a lot of cosponsorships here,
and I think we have 4 Republicans at this point.
Senator Grassley joined today.
Do you have some others that you're working on?
All right, well keep in touch. Thanks a lot.
[phone rings]
I'm doing a short interview, or excuse me--
when am I doing the Fox interview?
(Christy) 5:50 at the restaurant.
(Byron) Hello? Hi Sylvia.
Yeah, hi Harry. Yeah.
I'll come over and go through it with you.
Yeah, I will. Okay, thanks Harry.
(man) There we go. Great. Good.
Just let me know, Dave.
(Dave) That's perfect right there, yes.
(Byron) Is that gonna be a problem?
(Dave) Nope. All right.
Lint... there.
So what are they doing down in the Obama district?
(Sylvia Oliver) We have something called the walk,
and literally, if someone's trying to connect with him,
they'll say to me, can I walk with him from the office
to the meeting in the Capitol at 2:30, and I'll say okay.
Then someone else will come to me and say,
I also need to see him, it's very timely,
it's about an amendment that's coming up,
I'll say okay, he's coming back from this hearing,
and he's walking from the hearing to the Capitol
at this time, and if you stand outside this door,
you should catch him then.
Senator, between this, and I think
you're doing a floor speech,
if you want to give WDAZ a call and pass on your statement,
they're calling about the Grand Forks airport terminal.
No, I can't. Let me turn the volume up.
How are you? The moderator?
I think it's Neil Cavuto.
The Golden Gophers, and they just have not been able
to put together a good team.
Not since Lou Holtz left.
No. And then my daughter is at UNC Chapel Hill,
and so they thought this year they might have a shot,
and then they had all those players ineligible.
Did he die today?
No, no, he died... not too long ago.
You're right, September 8th, Tuesday.
Well listen, I heard your intro.
What was all that about, that intro?
I thought it was witchcraft.
Okay, okay, it was clever anyway. Thank you.
It was good to see you. Nice seeing you, Senator.
Hope your team wins tonight.
Thank you, Sir, appreciate it.
People say to me, they say thank you,
and I say no, no, I should say thank you.
I mean, this has been a great privilege and a gift to me
given me by the people of North Dakota,
so don't think I've ever taken this for granted.
I've always thought this was a great privilege,
and on my wall, I've got my lineage,
I've got where I came from; I never forget that.
I love to go back to my little hometown.
I've always recognized as well you've got to have
passion in your heart about the things you believe in
and do what you believe is right.
I've had very difficult votes from time to time.
For example, changing the Constitution
to prohibit desecrating the American flag.
I love the American flag,
but I would never change the Constitution
with a flag burning amendment.
I know people get very upset
because I wouldn't vote for that.
I just, I think the Constitution's been amended only 17 times in 200 years.
We've got people that think it's a rough draft.
Every urge they get, they want to amend the Constitution.
I just can't do it, no matter what people think.
So I've done what I've tried to do and be passionate
to say to people, here's how I felt about it.
This desk gets lots of things, and I've always told the story
about the one little letter I got.
I got a packet of 20 letters from
I think it was Carrington, North Dakota a teacher said
our project is to write to our senator, a little class project.
And so I got 20 letters from like a 4th grade class.
A little girl wrote and she said, Dear Senator Dorgan,
I know who you are, I see you on television sometimes.
My Dad watches you on television too.
God, does he get mad!
[laughs] And I thought to myself that is such a great reminder
that you've got a whole constituency of people
that feel very differently, have great passions of their own,
and my opportunity is to be here and do the best I can,
use the best judgement I can use.
But the final point is that this has been a great gift
given me by the people of North Dakota,
and this tent of our democracy and government doesn't rest
on a center pole called Byron Dorgan.
There are a lot of good people and will be a lot of good people
in the future who assume
the mantle of responsibility for elected office,
and this gives me the opportunity to move off
to another chapter in my life.
[organ plays; loud applause]
And for those of you that think, and there are some in this state
that think that politics is no longer
an honorable profession for a young man,
I want to try and explain as best and as precisely as I can
why I feel it's necessary to run for congress this year.
I'm running for congress because as one American citizen,
I don't approve of the conduct of congress
and the administration in Washington,
and I intend to do all I can to see that we change it.
[loud applause]
[piano softly plays "The Times They are A-Changin'"]
[guitar & piano play in bright rhythm]
(man) Funding for the production of
"Byron Dorgan in the Halls Of Congress"
is provided by a grant from Gate City Bank--
offering a full range of financial products and services;
available at any of Gate City's 32 offices across the region;
North Dakota Farmers Union...