Following a Congressional recess, the Senate was back in session this week with a busy agenda.
Last week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made official what we have expected for some time now, that trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical that was present in the drinking water at Camp Lejeune for decades, is a known human carcinogen and represents a grave health risk to those exposed to it. This designation raises serious questions about the National Academy of Science’s 2009 review of TCE and PCE at Camp Lejeune that the Navy and Marine Corps have cited in their literature to the affected community. To read more about this EPA decision, click here.
While this is an important step towards providing care for those who suffer adverse health effects resulting from exposure to toxic water at Camp Lejeune, we still have a long way to go. These men and women were poisoned through no fault of their own decades ago, yet many of them are still shouldering the burden of care or waiting too long to get the benefits they are due.
To learn more about my bill to provide care for those veterans and civilians who suffer as a result of their exposure to this toxic water, you can read a press release here or watch this video from a hearing of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.
On Tuesday, I was proud to be named a Taxpayer Hero by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste. Our economy is floundering, and we need to rein in government spending and balance the budget in order to spur growth and create jobs. To see my scorecard, click here.
On Thursday, I spoke at a press conference hosted by the National Venture Capital Association as they unveiled a survey indicating that America is at risk of losing its standing as the world leader in medical innovation. Every day, ground-breaking medical innovation is taking place with the goal of not just treating, but curing, diseases and conditions that affect millions of Americans. Unfortunately, regulatory challenges created by the FDA are hampering venture capitalists’ willingness to invest in biotechnology and medical devices.
Deterred by this regulatory uncertainty and a lack of predictability at FDA, investors are increasingly likely to turn away from America and pursue medical innovation overseas. This recent trend will not only cost American jobs, but America’s patients may have to wait longer for life-saving therapies or worse, never have access to them. This survey is a wake-up call to fix what is broken at FDA, starting with restoring certainty and predictability to regulation. To read more, check out my blog.
Also on Thursday, Senator Patty Murray, the Chairman of the Veterans’ Affairs’ Committee, and I hosted a roundtable discussion with Microsoft, Goodwill, and the American Legion to explore what can be done to help America’s unemployed veterans re-enter the workforce. One of the biggest challenges facing service members transitioning back to civilian life is to translate their military experience into skills that make them marketable in the private sector workforce. Corporations like Goodwill and Microsoft are making big strides in helping with this transition, and we owe it to our veterans to do all that we can to ensure that they have opportunities for employment after leaving the service.
Prior to adjourning for the week, the Currency Exchange Rate Oversight Reform bill passed a procedural hurdle. I introduced this bill with a bipartisan group of Senators to hold China accountable for undervaluing its currency which has an extremely detrimental effect on American manufacturing jobs and our entire economy, and we are hopeful the Senate will pass it next week. For years, China has manipulated the value of their currency, the Yuan, in order to give itself an unfair advantage in the global economy. This practice contributes to our trade deficit with China and has resulted in fewer American exports and the loss of millions of American manufacturing jobs, including many in North Carolina.
This bill was expected to pass on Thursday night, but progress was stalled by Majority Leader Harry Reid’s action to force a change in the Senate rules. Senator Reid took unprecedented steps to limit the ability of Senators to have votes on amendments, stripping the Senate minority of a fundamental tool and abandoning long-standing Senate principles to accommodate his own agenda. In a desperate attempt to prevent members of his party from having to take tough votes, and continuing his long-standing effort to have the Senate vote only on amendments of which he personally approves, Senator Reid exercised what is known as the “nuclear option” to block the Senate from voting on the President’s “jobs” bill.
Also this week, I had the opportunity to go on the air and speak with radio hosts Bill LuMaye, of WPTF, and Jerri Jameson on WWNC. On Wednesday afternoon, Bill and I discussed President Obama’s jobs bill and why I disagree with the effort to include new taxes into the proposal. I outlined my belief that we need to radically reform our tax code in order to make it fair for all citizens and to restore confidence in our economy. On Thursday morning, Jerri and I further discussed the jobs bill and why another failed stimulus package is not the answer to spurring economic growth. When you have time, I hope you will listen to these interviews which address some of the most relevant issues facing the Senate and the American people today.