Legislative Update From Senator Richard Burr

Message From Senator Burr

Last Friday, a bipartisan, bicameral agreement was reached to reform the Child Care & Development Block Grant Program.  Senator Mikulski and I have been working on reforming the program for three years and introduced legislation in 2013, which passed the Senate earlier this year.

The Child Care and Development Block Grant Act (CCDBG) provides funds to states to help low-income families pay for child care while a parent works or is in an educational or job training program.  The law has not been reauthorized since 1996.

When Senator Mikulski and I began working on CCDBG we envisioned a program where kids could have safer environments to stay while their parents worked, while making sure taxpayers did not continue to subsidize providers who created unsafe settings and threatened their well-being.  It has been a long time coming, but I’m proud we have reached this point.  I am thankful for the work of my colleagues in the Senate and the House who stood together to ensure the passage of this legislation.  This legislation will positively impact the lives of millions of children and their parents.  CCDBG passed the House on Tuesday and will be brought to the Senate floor during the lame duck session.

Read more about the Child Care & Development Block Grant Program here.

On Tuesday, Senator King and I introduced legislation to reform federal student loan repayment programs. Current graduates face a maze of federal student loan repayment programs from which to choose that often leave students confused about which program best fits their needs.  In addition, years of ad hoc changes and expansions have done little to ensure taxpayers are being best served.

The Repay Act, which mirrors a discussion draft Senator King and I released earlier this year, addresses these issues by consolidating many of the benefits of current repayment programs into two plans: a fixed repayment plan, based on a 10-year period, and a single, simplified income-driven repayment option. 

Although more can be done to address the deficiencies in our student loan programs, the Repay Act is a responsible step in the right direction toward better fiscal management of our loan programs that allows students to make well-informed decisions about borrowing for college.  I look forward to advocating for the Repay Act’s inclusion in Higher Education Act as Congress continues to debate its reauthorization.

Read more about the Repay Act here and read an op-ed we wrote on our proposal here.

On Wednesday, the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a joint hearing with the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Committee on Appropriations on the current Ebola virus outbreak, which has been ravaging West Africa.  We heard from a wide variety of experts including a Director from the Center for Disease Control, a Director from the National Institutes of Health, a Program Manager from Sierra Leone, and the American Doctor who survived Ebola while working in Monrovia, Liberia.

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa is unprecedented – the world has never before seen an Ebola outbreak take such a toll in terms of the number of infected cases and deaths, or the human devastation sweeping across West Africa.  The United States has no choice but to lead the global response effort to swiftly extinguish this epidemic and the threat it presents.  It is in our nation’s best interest to work with our international partners to deploy all tools at our disposal to stop the spread of this horrible virus and speed the development of medicines to prevent and treat it.  I am committed to making sure we do what it takes to defeat this deadly epidemic.

You can read each of the witnesses’ opening statements and watch the full committee hearing here.

This week, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution introduced by Senator Boxer and I to honor the auxiliaries of Veterans Service Organizations.  More than one million Americans - wives, widows, mothers, grandmothers, daughters and granddaughters of veterans, as well as veterans themselves - are auxiliary members.  They have worked alongside veterans service organizations for close to a century - volunteering hundreds of thousands of hours and raising billions of dollars to support countless charitable causes.  Auxiliary units also conduct welcome home and send-off events for deployed service members and strengthen their communities by conducting food drives, visiting hospitals, providing scholarships and providing valuable support at veterans facilities.

These women are the heart of our nation's quiet but devoted network that provide support to veterans and they should be recognized for their hard work and sacrifices.  Thank you for your service to our nation’s veterans.

Finally, last evening, the Senate vote on the CR, which included language addressing ISIL.  I voted in favor and must echo similar remarks from last week’s newsletter -- for the better part of a year I’ve called for action to curb ISIL’s inhumane and brutal terror campaign.  It is in our national interests to destroy ISIL and we should use all appropriate tools to do so.