Legislative Update from Senator Richard Burr
Tuesday, I joined my Senate colleagues and members from the House to discuss legislation which would address the deeply rooted problems at VA. It is now time for us, in partnership with VA, to begin to repair the damage that has resulted from the systemic failures that have undermined the trust veterans had placed in VA. Most importantly, we must ensure that veterans get the appointments they need from the doctor of their choice, provide the transparency needed to do an apples-to-apples comparison with non-VA hospitals, and start reforming the system and changing the culture to ensure no veteran ever again dies while waiting for the care they needed. Click below or visit my YouTube page to watch my opening statement.
Senator Coburn released a new report on the VA that is incredibly informative and adds to the narrative that some of us in the Senate have been voicing for years -- there are widespread, systemic failures that plague the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system. The culture that has developed at VA and the lack of management and accountability is simply reprehensible. I urge you to take the time to read this report - you can find it here.
This week, I joined Senator King in releasing to the public a discussion draft that would reform federal student loan repayment programs. Graduates today face a maze of federal student loan repayment programs from which to choose that often leave students confused about which programs best fits their needs. Furthermore, through years of ad hoc changes and expansions outside of Congressional authorization, little has been done to ensure taxpayers are likewise best served. The King/Burr Discussion Draft addresses these issues by consolidating many of the benefits of current repayment programs into a single simplified income-based repayment option.
Senator King and I are introducing this discussion draft instead of legislation so we can receive feedback from the public - student borrowers, our Congressional colleagues, experts in the field, or anyone else who can bring to the table thoughtful discussion on how to best help our students. I understand how daunting it can be to finish school and face the uncertainty of unemployment, on top of the anxiety of how to repay student loans. It is my hope that we will receive robust feedback in the coming months to better this draft and inform Congress as we begin Higher Education Act reauthorization efforts. Read more here.
During the past couple of weeks, more information about the IRS scandal has come to light, including the "missing" emails from Lois Lerner and the targeting of a United States Senator by the IRS. I joined the rest of the Finance Committee Republicans in writing several letters this week to Attorney General Eric Holder, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, and Federal Election Commission (FEC) Commissioner Lee E. Goodman.
We wrote "[a]s Republican members of the Finance Committee, we are determined to get to the bottom of what happened at the IRS and why it happened. To date, the Committee's investigation has largely consisted of evaluating information provided by the IRS. Unfortunately, following the IRS' recent pattern of misleading the Committee and failing to provide accurate and timely information, we now need to look outside of the IRS."
Finally, this week I joined HELP Committee Senators Harkin, Alexander, and Casey in a letter to the CDC pressing them for details about possible anthrax exposure at a CDC lab. In our letter we expressed "serious concerns and questions with respect to the protocols and procedures that were followed at the biosafety labs" and were also concerned that the Committee, which oversees the CDC and biomedical research, was not informed promptly of the incident. You can read the full text of the letter here.
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