A Message from Senator Richard Burr
I am very proud to announce that, along with Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, I have introduced an energy bill that will increase our nation's energy independence, move us away from foreign oil, and develop the use of clean energy sources here at home. Our bill, the Next Generation Energy Security Act, expands nuclear power generation, incentivizes electric vehicles, switches fleet vehicles like large trucks from diesel fuel over to natural gas, and encourages increased development and use of renewable energy sources like wind, solar, and biofuels. Ensuring America's energy security is absolutely vital to our long-term economic prosperity, as well as our national security.
In addition to increasing our energy independence, these common-sense provisions will reduce our use of petroleum and our emissions more than any other piece of legislation in Congress. A tight federal budget, a troubled economy and the situation in the Gulf of Mexico are all-too-obvious reminders that we need to focus on ensuring a predictable energy future.This bill would help move us forward in using cleaner, domestic energy, but without making energy more expensive. I encourage you to read more about the specific provisions of my bill here. Full text of the bill can be found here.
Good news for homebuyers and homeowners: the Senate voted to extend the federal flood insurance program for three more months. Flood insurance is important to many North Carolinians. Since 2005, the NFIP has been operating under short-term extensions that have periodically expired, which has wrought undue uncertainty on many people. I am pleased that homebuyers who are in the process of closing their homes will be able to do so.
It is a shame that Congress has once again wrapped up a week in Washington without extending unemployment benefits. As late as 9:30 Wednesday night, Republicans tried to bring up a paid-for benefits extension that would extend these benefits to the Americans who need them without adding to our federal deficit. Unfortunately, the majority objected, and the issue will remain unresolved until after the Independence Day recess. I'd like to be very clear on where I stand on the larger tax cut and benefit extenders bill: I have voted several times in support of tax and benefits extensions that Congress could afford. I voted for an alternative offered by Senator John Thune that accomplished the same goals as the Baucus bill, but it would have paid for this spending by making cuts elsewhere in the government. I supported this alternative because it uses common sense to extend critical programs and still reduces the federal deficit by $55 billion. Only by implementing saving and paying off debt can America return to fiscal and economic health.
Along these lines, we must not under-estimate the long term effects of continuing to add to our federal deficit. This week, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released its Long-Term Budget Outlook, which allows us to take a glimpse at what the future could hold when it comes to the budget. Not unexpectedly, this report further reveals the dangerous path of deficits and debt that our country is currently on.
To give you a sense of where we are, at the end of 2008 our publicly-held debt was 40% of GDP. Today, it is around 60% of GDP --a 50 percent jump in just two years. If we don't rein in our current spending habits, CBO projects that our publicly-held debt could reach 185% of our GDP by 2035. What this means is that the size of our debt would be nearly twice the size of our entire economy. Keep in mind that nearly half of our debt is held by foreigners, the largest holder being the People's Republic of China.
Unless we change our ways, we will encounter higher interest rates and lower income growth. Just like Americans who fail to save up for a rainy day, if we continue to overspend, our government will be unable to respond to future economic downturns or emergencies. We cannot continue to jeopardize the future of our children and our grandchildren with this irresponsible accrual of debt.
Also this week, I attended confirmation hearings in the Senate Armed Services Committee for General David Petraeus to take the helm as Commander of U.S. Forces in Afghanistan. General Petraeus is a qualified and knowledgeable leader, and I look forward to working with him on our mission in Afghanistan. His nomination was approved unanimously by the Senate.
Many of you may have heard about the recent reports of mislabeled gravesites and other disturbing incidents at Arlington National Cemetery, one of our nation's most hallowed grounds and the final resting place for many of our country's heroes. In response to these reports, I sent a letter to Secretary of the Army John McHugh this week requesting the full and un-redacted version of the Army Inspector General's report on the issues at Arlington. I've also requested that Chairman of the Committee on Veteran's Affairs Senator Akaka (D-HI) hold a hearing to investigate the causes of these events and ways to avoid similar issues in the future.
A quick word on the passing of my colleague, Senator Robert Byrd of West Virginia. Sen. Byrd was a passionate legislator and one of the Senate's foremost authorities on rules and procedure. He also loved his home state of West Virginia, and his legacy will be remembered in both places.
Next week the Senate is in recess, but there is a lot to accomplish when we come back. I anticipate debate on the confirmation of Elena Kagan, the President's nominee to replace retiring Justice Stevens on the United States Supreme Court, a final vote on the extenders package and consideration of a bill to reform our nation's financial regulatory system.
Please take time during the July 4th holiday to honor the birth of the great country we live in, and offer thanks for the men and women who serve in our military to defend us, our freedoms, and our way of life.
U.S. Senator Richard Burr
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