01/02/06 — Richard Burr: Promising beginning for junior senator

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Richard Burr: Promising beginning for junior senator

North Carolina’s freshman U.S. senator hit the ground running — but not running his mouth — during his first year in the upper chamber.

Sen. Richard Burr already had five terms in the U.S. House of Representatives under his belt when he won the Senate seat held, but frequently unoccupied, by John Edwards.

Edwards spent most of his term as a senator running for the presidency and continues that pursuit.

Because of seniority gained from 10 years in the House, Burr was given some important committee assignments in the Senate, where he chairs subcommittees on bioterrorism and energy.

He successfully pushed measures that would expedite development and production of vaccines that could be used to combat bioterrism attacks or outbreaks of threats such as avian flu. His plan would give some liability protection for pharmaceutical companies and medical schools developing the vaccines.

Even as a freshman member of the House of Representatives, Burr had successfully championed efforts to expedite Federal Drug Administration approval of new medications.

His selection as chairman of the subcommittee on energy positions Burr to have significant influence on a challenge of great concern not only to his constituents at home but throughout the country.

He also demonstrated strong support of the state’s military installations during the latest round of proposed base closings.

While roundly criticized by some Democrats (surprise, surprise) as being too tightly aligned with President Bush, Burr cannot be accused of being a lock-step robot for the administration.

Early on, he expressed opposition to the Central Amer-ican Free Trade Agreement, though he voted for it after winning concessions aimed at protecting North Carolina textile interests. He also was outspoken in his criticism of the administration’s handling of Hurricane Katrina relief.

Despite an obviously busy schedule and developing a staff to provide for a statewide constituency, Burr also presided over the Senate for 135 hours during his first year of service.

An impartial review would have to give the state’s junior senator high marks for his first year in the Senate — one in keeping with his record during his 10 years in the House.

At 50, Richard Burr is young enough to build for himself and this state a presence of great and positive influence in the United States Senate. He certainly is off to a promising start.

Published in Editorials on January 2, 2006 11:09 AM