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Obama surrogates at work

The administration of President Barack Obama continues to lavish attention on North Carolina as we get closer to the 2012 election year.

On Monday, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of Health and Human Services, will join Congressman G.K. Butterfield in meeting with hospital officials, doctors, patients and other key health officials at East Carolina Heart Institute at Pitt County Memorial Hospital.

She will be highlighting the Partnership for Patients program which is designed to reduce preventable injuries and complications.

On Thursday, Tammy Duckworth, an assistant secretary for Veterans Affairs, will speak to the Wayne County Middle College High School graduation in Goldsboro. She is a decorated Black Hawk helicopter pilot who lost both her legs in Iraq. The school was chosen as one of six finalists in Obama's Commencement Challenge which recognizes schools that excel in preparing students.

Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz was in Raleigh this past Wednesday to meet with party leaders.

Earlier this month, First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of vice president Joe Biden visited the Marine's Camp Lejeune.

Dome Memo: The Wimpy budget?

GLADLY PAY TUESDAY? Call it the J. Wellington Wimpy budget. The N.C. Senate passed a $20 billion budget this week that doesn't say where $500 million in revenue would come from. Senate leaders said they'll work out the tax part later, much as the Popeye character promised to "gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today."

DUCKWORTH'S BACK ON: U.S. Sen. Richard Burr drew national attention for holding up the nomination of injured Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth as Veterans Affairs secretary. He said he had questions about her financial disclosure forms, but declined to give details. By mid-week, he said he would allow the nomination to go forward.

EARMARK TRANSPARENCY: In the bad old days, members of Congress secretly inserted earmarks in the budget. Now, they post the requests on their Web sites. If you can find them. And they don't all call them earmarks. And their methods of tallying up the requests differ so much it's difficult to compare to them, apples to apples. But it's a start.

IN OTHER NEWS: A fix to the State Health Plan narrowly passed the state Senate. ... Former Board of Transportation member Louis Sewell got an invite to the Executive Mansion from Gov. Beverly Perdue. ... Vice President Joe Biden dropped by Fort Bragg to welcome home troops. North Carolina's been pretty popular for executive branch visits since the state went for President Obama in November. ... The Senate budget would take oversight of state testing away from schools Superintendent June Atkinson, the latest in a tug-of-war between her and Gov. Perdue over education.

Burr: I'll support Duckworth

Republican Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina has agreed to allow the nomination of injured Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth go forward for a top post in the Veterans Affairs administration.

"I will support her," Burr told a a group of editors and reporters at The News and Observer on Wednesday.

Burr, the ranking Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, last week held up the nomination of Duckworth because he had questions about a confidential financial questionnaire she had filled out, Rob Christensen reports.

The move angered some veterans groups because Duckworth is a National Guard major who lost both of her legs when the helicopter she was piloting was attacked in Iraq.

More after the jump.

Burr delays vote on Duckworth

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr is delaying the nomination vote and swearing-in of injured Iraq veteran Tammy Duckworth for a high post in the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

His actions angered some veterans groups Friday, reports Barbara Barrett.

"Senator Burr has had plenty of time to ask questions of her," said Jon Soltz, chairman of, an organization of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, in a statement.
"Senator Burr is only hurting American veterans with this nonsense. He should stop playing petty partisan games, stop needling the White House for the sheer fun of it, and grow up."

But Burr, a Winston-Salem Republican, still has questions about Duckworth's nomination, his office said.

"He's basically doing some due diligence as he does for every nominee to ensure veterans have the best representation," said Burr's spokesman, David Ward. "It's the same thing he would do with any nominee."

Ward declined to discuss what the questions were about.

Burr ready to question Duckworth

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr, the top Republican on the Senate Veterans Affairs committee, said today he looks forward to questioning President Barack Obama's nominee for a job in the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Obama has nominated Tammy Duckworth, the director of veterans affairs for Illinois, to be an assistant secretary in the federal agency, Barb Barrett reports.

She would cover public and intergovernmental affairs. She would oversee programs for homeless veterans — an interest of Burr's — and be in charge of public affairs and intergovernmental relations.

Duckworth, a major in the Illinois National Guard, was a favorite to be chosen for the federal Cabinet position. She also was reportedly on a list of possibilities to take Obama's Senate seat. She served in Iraq and was wounded when the helicopter she was piloting was shot down, resulting in the loss of both her legs.

"Tammy Duckworth has certainly made enormous sacrifices in her service to our country," Burr said in a statement. "I look forward to her confirmation hearing and plan on asking her about her thoughts and ideas on how we improve care for our veterans."

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