11.21.14

Legislative Update From Senator Richard Burr

Message From Senator Burr

This week the Senate finally took a vote on the Keystone XL Pipeline after years of stalling. Unfortunately, the legislation did not pass. As an original cosponsor of the bill and supporter of its authorization, it's inexplicable that Senate Democrats and the President continue to block legislation supported by this Administration's own State Department and a strong majority of Americans.

We know that you, along with Americans all across our nation, want real leadership and a genuine opportunity to build a healthy economy again. The Keystone Pipeline -- beyond creating thousands of shovel-ready jobs - would invest billions of dollars into our economy and would also improve our energy security at a time of unrest abroad. I look forward to January and the opportunity for the Senate to bring this up again.

Last evening, the President addressed the nation about his intention to pursue amnesty for illegal immigrants through executive action. This decision, counter to his own statements over the last few years, represents the very height of Presidential arrogance and signifies a dangerous shift from a nation of laws to a nation of men. In order to achieve some sort of gain for his political party, the President risks damage to the rule of law in our nation, but he also threatens a more immediate impact on those here legally, those following the legal process to gain entry into our country, and others struggling to find work in a fragile economy. Our border states will also be further stressed as they deal with another, almost certain surge of additional illegal immigrants looking for similar treatment from this White House.

The new Senate majority, working with our colleagues in the expanded House majority, will be considering all appropriate responses in the coming weeks --  including legislative and legal means.

On Monday, Senators McCain, Blumenthal, Blunt, Murkowski, Manchin, and I introduced a new bill to address suicide and mental health care among our veterans. When our veterans come back from serving, they are under a lot of mental strain -- processing their time in service and adjusting back into civilian life can take a major toll on even the strongest of our uniformed men and women.  For years, my colleagues and I have been pursuing solutions to effectively reach our veterans who need help before they turn to substance abuse or, even more concerning, choose to end their lives. 

The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act offers several critical measures that would improve mental health care and suicide prevention resources for American service members. This legislation would force the Department of Veterans Affairs to face their deficiencies and pursue solutions with non-governmental organizations to provide the helping hand that so many of veterans desperately need.  With this legislation, our nations veterans will now have a website to find information on the mental health services available and ensure that National Guard members are not lost while transitioning back to their civilian life. Our nation has made a promise to the men and women who serve to protect our freedoms, we cannot let them down. You can read more about this legislation here.

Following the introduction of our mental health legislation, the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs held a hearing on "Mental Health and Suicide Among Veterans." The committee heard from VA leadership in charge of mental health services, representatives from outside groups who provide support to our veterans, and from Susan Selke and Valerie Pallotta, mothers who lost their sons to battles with depression and PTSD. The Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act is named after Susan Selke's son.

You can read my opening statement here.

On Monday, the Senate passed the Child Care Development Block Grant 88-1. The President signed it into law on Wednesday. After years of hard work with Senator Mikulski, I am pleased that the Senate passed this bipartisan, commonsense piece of legislation that will foster the development of children across this nation. CCDBG is a welfare reform success story -- supporting the safety and education of our children while empowering parents to take control of their own future. This legislation promotes transparency so parents can be well-informed consumers of child care while ensuring federal dollars will no longer go to child care providers who have been convicted of violent crimes. I am proud to have played a part in this major achievement in helping children and their hardworking families.

Finally, on Thursday, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on the nomination of Lauren McFerran to serve as a member of the National Labor Relations Board. I want to draw your attention to the exchange Ms. McFerran and I had on joint employers and franchising. You can watch by clicking here