A Message from Senator Richard Burr
As another busy week in Washington comes to a close, I wanted to update you on what we have been working on in the Senate. Over the past 2 weeks, the Senate has been working on the "extenders bill." This legislation is designed to extend expiring unemployment and tax provisions as well as a large number of other items. These extensions enjoy broad bipartisan support. The debate we are currently having in the Senate is whether or not we pay for them.
The extenders bill introduced by Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) increases spending by $105 billion and includes over $50 billion in new taxes. In total, this bill will increase the deficit by $55 billion -- an obligation that will be added to our $13 trillion debt.
Yesterday, Senator John Thune (R-SD) offered the Senate a path forward on this issue, and I was proud to support it. Senator Thune's alternative accomplishes the same primary goals as the Democrats' proposal, such as extending unemployment benefits and stopping cuts to Medicare doctor reimbursements, but does so without adding a dime to our budget deficit. In fact, according to the Congressional Budget Office, the Thune alternative bill actually reduces the deficit by $55 billion. In order to pay for the extensions, the Thune alternative returns $38 billion in unobligated stimulus funds, cuts wasteful and unnecessary government spending, and collects unpaid taxes of federal employees. I voted in favor of this alternative because it uses common-sense approaches to save money, and requires that the savings be used to pay down the federal debt. Only through basic, responsible accounting - saving and paying off debt - can America return to the economic and fiscal vitality that we once enjoyed. Unfortunately, the Thune alternative was rejected by the Senate by a vote of 41-57.
On another very important issue, as you are all aware, it has been 60 days since the beginning of the disaster in the Gulf, and we still have not been able to stop the flow of oil. We continue to need an all hands on deck approach to clean it up in order to mitigate the long-term damage as much as possible. I'm deeply troubled by reports that legitimate offers of help from foreign nations are being turned away by our own government.
The Jones Act is a federal law that mandates that all goods shipped between U.S. ports be transported in ships built, owned and manned by the United States. Other nations have offered their help in the clean-up process, but until this law is waived by the President, these vessels are prohibited from entering the region. Today, I sent a letter to President Obama asking him to waive the Jones Act. This is a common-sense step that the President can take to allow us to use every effective tool to contain and clean up the oil. Such an action is not unprecedented, as President George W. Bush waived the Jones Act in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. If we want to fight this disaster 'with everything we've got,' as the President has called for, then he should allow those who have offered aid to come in and help us. With a massive environmental and economic crisis that is continuing to spread, we don't have the luxury of saying no to honest offers of help.
On Wednesday, a resolution I introduced recognizing the 60th anniversary of the outbreak of the Korean War and honoring veterans was passed by the Senate unanimously. The resolution marks the 60th anniversary of June 25, 1950, when communist troops from North Korea crossed the 38th parallel to invade South Korea.
Despite being called the 'Forgotten War,' the Korean War holds deep historical and strategic significance to our country and to many families. In addition to commemorating the start of the Korean War, this resolution honors those Americans who served proudly in that conflict, and recognizes the continued resilience and vibrancy of the alliance between American and South Korea. Almost 1.8 million Americans were served in the Korean War and more than 54,000 American servicemen and servicewomen gave their lives.
Next week, the Senate is expected to continue to debate and vote on the extenders bill, and it is rumored that we might take up legislation that would federalize labor relations by requiring states and localities to allow collective bargaining for police and firefighters. I will update you next week on what happens with these issues.
U.S. Senator Richard Burr
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