The Hill: Enough bickering, time to stay focused on important issues

Enough bickering, time to stay focused on important issues

Richard Burr

Last week, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) suggested that his party may attempt to dispose of the filibuster next Congress if Democrats win a majority of Senate seats this November.

It goes without saying that this is a short-sighted proposition, regardless of which political party is in the majority next year. In fact, the current Senate has demonstrated that even in divided times, Congress can make strides in improving the lives of all Americans.

The filibuster, which is a procedural maneuver to postpone legislative action in the Senate, dates back to Congress’ early days, and it ensures that the minority party in the Senate can still make their voices heard.  This is an important minority protection that distinguishes the Senate from the House of Representatives, where legislation supported by the majority party is often guaranteed to pass.

Furthermore, it’s odd that Minority Leader Reid would call for an end to the filibuster while leading multiple filibusters of his own: blocking funding for Zika aid, blocking funding for veterans, and blocking funding for our American troops currently in combat. While Minority Leader Reid has been busy talking, the Senate has been hard at work for the American people. It’s time for Reid to come to the table and work together to find solutions to our toughest problems.

A good start would be to pass the Zika aid bill, which would appropriate $1.1 billion additional dollars in Zika aid for vaccine development, mosquito control, and support services in areas that have been hit hard by this virus. It is unconscionable that anyone would block this bill to help protect pregnant women and their babies from the threats posed by this heartbreaking Zika epidemic.

Yet despite Minority Leader Reid’s best efforts to increase partisan dysfunction in Washington, the Senate has passed significant legislation this Congress.  Allow me to share just a few of them, and what they mean for North Carolina families.

Last December, the Senate passed, and the President signed into law, the bipartisan Every Student Succeeds Act – legislation to fix No Child Left Behind and restore control of K-12 education back to those closest to our children: parents, teachers, principals and local school boards.

In working with my colleagues, I was able to include an amendment that sends an additional $24 million in yearly education funding to North Carolina. That additional funding is being directed into the lower-income communities that need it the most. My amendment means 500 additional teachers for the state of North Carolina – an average of five more teachers per county in our state.

And as college students head back to school, I would be remiss if I did not mention the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act, a law I wrote with Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Angus King (I-Maine) that has allowed college students to take advantage of today’s low interest rates, saving them $46 billion in student loan costs in the last three years.  Every student who has taken out a federal student loan in the last three years has saved money thanks to this law.

Amid the media coverage of partisan bickering, many may have not noticed that in 2014, Congress passed the Achieving a Better Life Experience, or ABLE, Act, legislation that has been called one of the most significant laws helping people with disabilities since the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990. I partnered with Senator Bob Casey (D-Pa.) to pass the ABLE Act, which allows families with a disabled child to save for their child’s lifelong expenses without losing eligibility for critical benefits they need, such as medical care.

In 2015, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) and I were able to write and pass legislation that strengthened the National Sex Offender Registry, a law that is making our communities and families safer.  This legislation became law as part of a larger bill aimed at combatting the scourge of human trafficking and assisting the victims of modern slavery.

And as Chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, I worked with Sen. Dianne Feinstein(D-Calif.) to pass bipartisan cybersecurity legislation, a law that is helping protect the online privacy of Americans while improving the ability of businesses to defend themselves against cyberattacks.

Getting things done requires leadership and an ability to cross party lines and build the trust that is required to solve our nation’s most serious challenges.  It also takes work.

Americans get up and go to work every day to do their jobs and provide for their families. Washington should take a lesson. As your Senator, I’ll always work to do what’s right for North Carolina.