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Morning Memo: Hundreds furloughed; U.S. Senate candidates make moves

HUNDREDS OF STATE WORKERS FURLOUGHED: The federal government shutdown caused the furlough of hundreds of state government workers whose jobs are fully or partially federally funded Tuesday, and state officials said several thousand more jobs could be be affected.

The state Department of Health and Human Services told 337 employees not to show up for work Wednesday morning. Officials said as many 4,500 DHHS workers could be furloughed or see their hours reduced. There was also a smaller furlough in the Department of Transportation, and a small group of workers at the state Labor Department saw their hours slashed in half.

#NCSEN DAY: The Republican challengers in the U.S. Senate race are all making moves this week to position themselves. Charlotte Pastor Mark Harris enters the race today, Thom Tillis is hiring staff and Greg Brannon is touting fundraising numbers.

***Read all the U.S. Senate race news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

With shutdown, Richard Burr closes constituent offices in North Carolina

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr announced Tuesday he is shutting down his constituent offices in Winston-Salem, Asheville, Gastonia, Rocky Mount and Wilmington for the duration of the partial government shutdown.

This means Burr's office won't be available to help North Carolinians with questions about Social Security and veteran's benefits, or Medicare and Medicaid -- a key part of a federal lawmaker's services. His Washington office is also operating at a limited capacity, Burr's office said.

Burr, a Republican, has called the GOP effort to defund the federal health care law -- at the threat of a shutdown -- "the dumbest idea I'd ever heard of." On Tuesday, he called the shutdown unfortunate. "My colleagues and I are working to resolve this matter as soon as possible," he said.

Morning Memo: Feds to challenge N.C. voting law; Senate candidates scrap for cash

FEDS TO CHALLENGE NORTH CAROLINA’S VOTING LAW: The U.S. Department of Justice will file a lawsuit Monday to stop North Carolina’s new voter ID law, which critics have said is the most sweeping law of its kind, according to a person briefed on the department’s plans.

Attorney General Eric Holder, who has said he will fight state voting laws that he sees as discriminatory, will announce the lawsuit at noon Monday, along with the three U.S. attorneys from the state. Critics said the law will disenfranchise African-American and elderly voters, while the Republican-led General Assembly in Raleigh said the law will protect the state’s voters from potential fraud.

***Read more on the forthcoming lawsuit, get #NCSEN updates and a roundup of North Carolina political headlines below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

Burr explains vote on continuing resolution, Obamacare

Republican Sen. Richard Burr voted Friday to allow a plan to keep the federal government open past Tuesday to go forward, while maintaining Obamacare.

Burr was one of 25 Republicans who voted to shut down debate in a 79-19 vote.

“I have voted 56 times to defeat, dismantle, and defund Obamacare,'' Burr said in a statement. "When Obamacare was first brought before the Senate in 2009, my fellow Republicans and I on the HELP Committee did everything in our power to stop this bill from moving forward. After Democrats rammed it through committee on a straight party-line vote, Senator Coburn and I spent countless hours on the Senate floor to rally against the bill and used every procedural tactic at our disposal to block its passage. Unfortunately, the 2008 elections gave Democrats an overwhelming majority in Washington, which they used to force Obamacare into law.''

Burr helps put together drug safety bill

Sen. Richard Burr was involved in hammering out legislation this week designed to help ensure the safety of compounded drugs and track all prescription drugs from the manufacturing plant to the drug store.

Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, was part of a group of House-Senate bipartisan group, that developed legislation this week. The group began meeting a year ago, after a meningitis outbreak caused by contaminated compounded drugs from the New England Compounding Center.

"Securing our nation's drug supply chain is critical to the health and safety of the American people,'' Burr said in a statement. "The American people deserve the peace of mind to know that the medicines they take are safe and effective. This bill establishes a uniform system that improves the security and safety of drug for consumers.''

The group was led on the Senate side by Sens. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn, Al Franken, D-Minn, Pat Roberts, R-Kan, Michael Bennett, D-Colo., and Burr.

Burr sponsors infant mortality resolution

Sen. Richard Burr this week led a bi-partisan effort in the Senate to increase awareness about infant mortality and access to prenatal care.

Burr, a Republican, and Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat and Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, sponsored a resolution, commemorating September as National Infant Mortality Awareness Month.

They called on the Department of Health and Human Services to spread awareness about the contributing factors in the 25,000 infant deaths each year.

"Community-based programs, such as outreach, home visitation, case management, and health education may help substantially reduce infant morality,'' Burr said in a statement. "This resolution is a small way to recognize and support efforts to reduce infant deaths, low birth weight, pre-term births, and disparities in perinatal outcomes through continued education about infant mortality and the contributing factors.''

Morning Memo: Protests at mansion draw 200, GOP senator says 'Let 'em yell'

'MORAL MONDAY' RALLY DRAWS ABOUT 200: Nearly 200 demonstrators were part of the procession that moved slowly from the First Baptist Church on Wilmington Street in downtown Raleigh to the Executive Mansion. The event, touted as the 18th “Moral Monday,” was led by Youth and College NAACP groups from across North Carolina.

Gov. Pat McCrory was attending a Republic Governors Association meeting in Charleston, S.C., his staff told the media, and not at the Blount Street mansion while the young and old walked the perimeter of the property. “We’re going to make one circle around the governor’s mansion to let him know we plan to go all around this state,” the Rev. William Barber II, head of the state NAACP, told the demonstrators,

On Monday, it was the youth doing most of the rallying, though. “Just because the governor is gone doesn’t mean the issue is gone,” said Isaiah Daniels, a Shaw University student at the event. Read more here.

***Read a firebrand GOP response to the Democrats and get more North Carolina political news below in the Dome Morning Memo.***

High Point University poll shows McCrory's approval falling 10 points

Gov. Pat McCrory's approval rating declined 10 points in six months, according to the latest High Point University poll released Monday.

The HPU poll found North Carolina resident put the Republican's approval rating at 39 percent -- equal to President Barack Obama. Another 42 percent disapprove of McCrory's handling of his job -- a 17 percent increase from six months ago -- with 19 percent unsure, HPU found. The poll, which has an approval rating of plus-or-minus 5 percent -- did not screen for registered voters or likely voters.

Burr says maintain military threat, while seeking diplomatic solution

Republican Sen. Richard Burr said Wednesday the U.S. must maintain a viable military threat against Syria as it seeks a diplomatic solution.

“Over the past two years, Bashar al-Assad has brutally murdered over 100,000 of his own people and has used chemical weapons 12 times, with the loss of civilian life increasing with each attack and the latest culminating in the death of over 400 children,'' Burr said in a statement.

"These facts are indisputable and demonstrate the serious threat that these weapons of mass destruction pose to the security of the region and the world.'' "It is my preference to see this situation end diplomatically. However, that requires the threat of military action moving the international community to pressure Assad to accept a certifiable and enforceable solution.

"Should these efforts fail, the United States must be prepared to take necessary, punitive military action against the Syrian regime to protect our long-term security and send the message to the world that the use of these weapons will not be tolerated.”

Burr urges military action against Syria

Republican Sen. Richard Burr Wednesday urged military action against Syria. “Civilized people should be outraged by the deaths of thousands of Syrian civilians and the many more who have been maimed in this horrible civil war,'' Burr said in a statement.

"The Syrian regime's use of chemical weapons against civilians is morally repugnant and violates long held standards of conduct. Short of putting troops on the ground, it is time for the United States and our NATO allies to take necessary, punitive military action against the Syrian regime and send a clear signal to its leadership, and others in the region who may be contemplating using weapons of this nature, that there are consequences for these actions.”

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