By U.S. Senator Deb Fischer
Seventy-three thousand miles.
That’s how far I traveled crisscrossing Nebraska during my Senate campaign. From Omaha and Lincoln to the western panhandle, Nebraskans gave me a clear instruction: cut the wasteful spending. During my first 100 days as a U.S. senator, I’ve worked hard to do just that.
I promised Nebraskans I would be honest with them – no gimmicks and no games. Well, as my friend, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would say, “here’s a little straight talk.”
Congress recently passed, and the president signed, a bill to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year. Rather than making real spending cuts, the bill shifts $9 billion in “savings” from mandatory spending programs to pay for parochial interests. Shifting money across accounts and spending it all the same is not what I call a spending cut, and I suspect Nebraskans agree.
These phony budget savings are exactly the type of Washington tricks that troubled me as a citizen at home in Valentine. As a U.S. senator, I won’t support it.
While I was pleased that, after nearly four years, the Senate finally debated a budget, I was disappointed in the end result: $1.5 trillion more in taxes; 62 percent more in spending over 10 years; and $7.3 trillion more in debt. There’s no such thing as a “balanced approach” to deficit reduction that doesn’t include a balanced budget -- and this Senate budget will never balance.
Spending cuts are necessary but require precision. I voted for several amendments to provide the president with flexibility to replace across-the-board spending cuts (legally required by the so-called sequester) with meaningful cuts targeting wasteful spending. I wrote Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack encouraging him to find cost savings by reducing funding for unnecessary travel and conferences rather than crucial meat inspections.
My record is clear: We must cut wasteful spending (and there’s plenty of it!), not critical government services. It’s a matter of setting priorities.
As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I traveled to Afghanistan to meet with troops and commanders and learn firsthand their progress and remaining challenges. America’s hard-fought gains must be preserved; the sacrifices of service members and their families require nothing less -- and our national security depends on it.
In February, I participated in Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel’s confirmation hearing. While I respect Hagel’s service, I was troubled by his positions on key issues, including his questionable commitment to nuclear deterrence and controversial views on Iran.
Hagel also failed to respond to a number of my colleagues’ questions regarding past speeches and personal finances. Accordingly, I voted twice to provide him time to answer these legitimate inquiries. Based on what I heard from constituents, I believe my position was shared by a majority of Nebraskans.
Now that the confirmation process is complete, I look forward to working with my colleagues, Secretary Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry (whose nomination I supported), to provide for the common defense.
Recently, I joined my colleagues on the Environment and Public Works Committee to unanimously pass the Water Resources Development Act, bipartisan legislation intended to maintain waterways for commerce and reduce flood and storm damage. Importantly, WRDA advances levee improvements essential to protecting Nebraska’s metropolitan drinking water supplies. This is the kind of bipartisan cooperation I promoted in the Legislature; WRDA shows it can be done in Washington, too.
Business owners, farmers and ranchers often ask me to address the overregulation inhibiting economic growth. I’ve made it a top priority and have invited constituents to comment through my website (www.fischer.senate.gov) and identify specific burdensome regulations in need of scrutiny. I hope to raise these concerns during the coming confirmation hearing of Gina McCarthy, the president’s nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency.
During the past 100 days, I have worked closely with my Democratic colleagues. Nineteen female senators -- including 16 Democrats -- and I helped secure passage of the Violence Against Women Act. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., joined me in writing Kerry to call for expeditious approval of the Keystone XL pipeline. Former "Saturday Night Live" standup-turned-Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and I coauthored an amendment to encourage deficit-neutral investment in rural broadband; the Senate unanimously adopted it.
Along with Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., I’m organizing events for our freshmen class to spend time together outside the office to start building relationships. To tackle the nation’s significant challenges, we must first trust one another.
Nebraskans always can count on me to stand tall for our shared principles. I believe principles matter. Adherence to them is not extremism -- it is integrity. It’s why citizens elect leaders in the first place.
This commitment to principles and willingness to work with others, regardless of party, is the Nebraska way -- and it is my way.