A Message from Senator Richard Burr

As the year—if not the 111th Congress—comes to a close, several critical pieces of legislation remain to be addressed by the Senate.As we work towards adjournment, it is important that we get this work done while also making sure our priorities are in order.

This week, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed a bill that extends current income tax rates.This bill will restore the predictability needed for small businesses and individuals to plan for the future and invest in our economy. Extending these tax rates came in a package deal with extending unemployment benefits.I voted for an amendment that would pay for these benefits, but that amendment failed.

However, any tax increases at this time would have been devastating both for our economy and for American families. And since preventing an across-the-board tax hike was my primary concern, I voted for the bill. Congress could have waited for a perfect bill, but the American people and economy could not afford to.

Another important legislative item is a Continuing Resolution, commonly referred to as a CR, which will provide the funding necessary to keep the government running.I am pleased that last night, Majority Leader Reid announced that he was abandoning plans to attach a 2,000 page "omnibus" spending bill to the CR and said he will work with Republicans to present a clean, short-term funding bill that will fund the federal government until we can vote on a budget in the 112th Congress.

The Senate also continues to debate the START treaty.As I mentioned in last week's newsletter, I am opposed to ratifying this treaty.I will not vote on behalf of any agreement that limits our ability to defend against growing international threats, and I believe that the New START treaty does just this. There are also greater issues at hand here which may be largely unknown to the public, but cause me grave concern as a member of the Armed Services and Intelligence Committees.It is these issues, which I am not at liberty to discuss openly or on the floor of the Senate, that scare me the most. Yesterday afternoon, I argued against the treaty on the Senate floor and I encourage you to watch the video here.

Other items of interest this week include House passage of a bill I introduced in the Senate to correct problems recently uncovered at Arlington National Cemetery, including unmarked and poorly marked graves.This bill will now go to the White House to be signed into law by the President.Additionally, on Wednesday, a victory for North Carolina's coastal fisheries was won in the Senate.A bill to outlaw the practice of "shark-finning" has gained momentum in Congress.While I support the goals of this legislation, it looked like it was going to have the unintended consequence of harming the smooth-dogfish fisheries off of our coast by making it illegal for these fisherman to process the smooth-dogfish at sea, which is crucial due to the rapid decomposition of its flesh once out of water.In order to prevent the smooth-dogfish industry from becoming economically unviable, we were able to secure an exemption for this particular fishery in the language of the bill.

And lastly, on Saturday, December 18, we will celebrate the first-ever "Gold Star Wives Day." Gold Star Wives are spouses of fallen soldiers who volunteer to assist other widows and survivors of fallen military members.I encourage you to take some time on Saturday to recognize the strength of these volunteers and thank them for their service.

It looks as though the Senate will remain in session this weekend and into next week as much work is left to be completed.Stay tuned to my website and Facebook page, and I encourage you to follow me on Twitter for updates on the remainder of this lame-duck session.


U.S. Senator Richard Burr