This has been another busy week in Washington, and the U.S. Senate tackled some important issues. First, the good news.
Two amendments that I introduced and are of particular interest to North Carolina were approved in committee this week. The first amendment responds to the Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry’s (ATSDR) discovery that the Department of Navy has failed to disclose significant information and documents about the water contamination at Camp Lejeune. The Navy must now work with officials at ATSDR to reconcile the information of both groups and to ensure that all documentation related to the water contamination is made available to ATSDR within a specific time frame.
Secondly, I’ve heard from many of you who are concerned about the building of an Outlying Landing Field (OLF) in areas of North Carolina and Virginia. In response, I drafted an amendment that prevents the Navy from initiating the construction of an OLF until the Secretary of the Navy has provided the defense committees with reports that delineate the impact that the OLF will make on the area and demonstrate a real need for such a field. I am pleased this amendment was also approved.
In other positive news for our state, I am always pleased and proud to welcome fellow North Carolinians who come to Washington to testify before Congress on important issues. On the education front, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee welcomed Henrietta Zalkind, Executive Director of the Down East Partnership for Children in Rocky Mount, to a hearing on the importance of early childhood education and child care. While on Capitol Hill, Zalkind shared with us about her experiences in North Carolina, and specific steps Congress can take to improve the quality of early childhood education so that all children regardless of background, are able to succeed in school, college, and the future workforce.
On a more somber note, this week, our national debt reached $13 trillion dollar mark. It is abundantly clear that business as usual in our government must stop. I have co-sponsored several bills that would cut government spending, but many of these failed to garner enough support to be approved. Our budget deficits are a tremendous threat to our nation’s future. We must work together to prevent our children from having to pay off more debt simply because we are afraid to make tough choices about our priorities. The current debt crisis in Europe should be a wake-up call to all of us that we must start making hard choices now.
In this regard, last night, the Senate voted to approve the Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2010. Originally intended as a bill to fund our military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, by the time this bill got to the floor of the Senate, it was full of spending that is completely unrelated to our troops. I have always been proud to support funding for our troops and our national defense. However, I am disappointed that this year, the supplemental funding bill is – once again – filled with unrelated spending that is not paid for with cuts elsewhere in the budget. I am especially disappointed that money is being taken away from our U.S. veterans to send money overseas. I supported amendments that would have improved the bill and covered its $60 billion cost, but unfortunately, these amendments were once again rejected by the majority in the Senate. I voted against this bill as it takes our country even closer to the edge of financial collapse.
Finally, I am pleased that on June 4, I will be speaking at the North Carolina Disabled American Veterans Convention in Raleigh. I look forward to talking with our brave veterans and answering their questions, and I hope to see some of you there.
Have a happy and safe Memorial Day Weekend. Take a few moments to remember all those who have lost their lives so that we could enjoy this time off with our families in freedom.
U.S. Senator Richard Burr