04.02.07

Capitol News from Senator Richard Burr

Message From Senator Burr

Greetings from Washington!  2007 has already proven to be a busy year.  Each spring, thousands of North Carolinians visit Washington, DC for conferences, meetings or vacation.  I so enjoy meeting with visitors and look forward to this exciting season each year. 

This year I continue to focus on issues that directly affect North Carolina such as supporting our military and veterans, increasing access to affordable health care, strengthening public education, and reforming our immigration system.

News Update

Iraq and the Military

I have always believed we must succeed in Iraq and that failure is not an option. We owe it to our troops and to the Iraqi people to remain committed to supporting a free and stable Iraq.  After several visits to Iraq, I believe it is critical for the Iraqi government to take immediate steps to disband the sectarian militias and death squads, pass key oil sharing legislation, and hold provincial elections. Our success in Iraq will define the security of our children as well as generations to come.  I support a temporary surge in U.S. troops provided those troops are given a clearly defined mission and achievable military objectives.

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Most North Carolinians were outraged over recent reports of unacceptable conditions for our veterans receiving outpatient medical care at Walter Reed Hospital in the Washington, DC area. I believe our veterans deserve the best medical care available.  While the inpatient medical care at Walter Reed is some of the best care in the nation, we need to specifically look at the medical services and facilities provided for those veterans who receive outpatient care to make sure it meets the same gold standard.  The recent news about the poor outpatient facilities at Walter Reed is appalling and there is serious work to be done to fix the problem.

In order to better serve veterans, I reintroduced the Services to Prevent Veterans Homelessness Act in March.  My legislation provides supportive services to keep low-income veterans in permanent housing so they do not become homeless.  It will increase veterans' access to assistance for housing, physical and mental health services, health insurance, and vocational and financial counseling.   Last year this legislation was passed by the Senate and I am hopeful my colleagues in the Senate will give this important legislation full consideration again this Congress.

Health Care

I believe all Americans should have access to affordable health care. Senator Tom Coburn, M.D.  (R-OK) and I introduced the Universal Health Care Choice and Access Actto make health care coverage accessible and affordable for all Americans through private insurance coverage, while also promoting prevention and wellness which can improve lives and lower medical costs. I believe this legislation takes a big step toward fixing our health care system. Key provisions of this legislation include: promoting prevention, MediChoice tax rebates that will shift tax breaks away from businesses to individuals, creation of a national market for health insurance, creating transparency of health care costs and services, and securing Medicare's future by increasing choice and encouraging savings.

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I also recently introduced legislation to set up a network of banks to store amniotic fluid and placental stem cells.  Dr. Anthony Atala at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and his colleagues are doing research which shows that a small number of stem cells in amniotic fluid and the placentas can give rise to many of the specialized cell types found in the human body.  Under this legislation, the U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services would contract with qualified amniotic fluid and placental stem cell banks to create and maintain a national inventory of 100,000 new high-quality amniotic fluid and placental stem cell units. The legislation authorizes $20 million annually to establish the banks. I believe we should do what we can to ensure this potentially life-saving material is saved for future use. Click here to learn more about this exciting research.

Securing the Border

My position on comprehensive immigration reform has not changed.  I understand how important this issue is to North Carolina and I will continue to support comprehensive reform that focuses on strengthening border security.  As a nation, we have welcomed generations of legal immigrants over the course of our history--immigrants who respect the law and contribute a great deal to our country.  I will continue to vote against legislation that grants amnesty to illegal immigrants and that fails to reform our current immigration policy for those who want to come to America legally.

Education

Each day more than 7,000 students drop out of our public high schools. That is 1.2 million students annually who do not go on to complete a high school education. In North Carolina over 30% of our high school students do not graduate.  These statistics alarm me, so I introduced the Graduate for a Better Future Act with Senator Bingamen (D-NM).  My legislation aims to help public high schools improve graduation rates by focusing on the 3 R's of high school reform: Rigor, Relevance, and Relationships. The bill establishes a competitive grant program targeted at school districts and high schools with the lowest graduation rates. Education will shape the future of our state and the lives of our young people and I believe we must do all we can to ensure our schools have the tools they need to help keep more young people in school. This legislation is also featured on the front page of my web site, which you can visit by clicking here.

Economic Development

In February, I sponsored an Economic Development Summit in Durham on health care focusing specifically on employer wellness and prevention solutions and on turning basic health care research into better health care, products and more jobs. Dr. Elias A. Zerhouni, Director of the National Institutes of Health, delivered the keynote address at the summit.  The statewide summit was the third in a series I have developed to improve economic development in North Carolina.  In addition to the Summits, I plan to continue to host workshops across North Carolina focusing on increasing access to federal resources and more effective grant writing skills for North Carolina's small businesses and counties, cities, and towns.  For more information, please call my Washington office.

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I invite constituents to sign-up to receive The Burr Bulletin, an electronic newsletter dedicated to federal grant news and information.  The bulletin will announce grant opportunities and key information regarding federal grant programs.  To register, go to http://burr.senate.gov/bb.

In Conclusion

I am grateful for the opportunity to serve North Carolina in the U.S. Senate.  My office is happy to help you solve problems with the federal government or to assist you in getting the information you need.  If you are planning a visit to Washington, D.C. please do not hesitate to contact my office for a tour of the U.S. Capitol or other sites.  Please also visit my offices in Winston-Salem, Asheville, Gastonia, Rocky Mount and Wilmington. And when you are in Washington, DC please stop by my office and say hello. We'd be glad to see you. 

Sincerely,

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Richard Burr