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Deb Fischer sworn in

Newly-elected Sen. Deb Fischer raises her right hand as she places her hand on a Bible held by her husband, Bruce, during a re-enactment of her swearing in by Vice President Joe Biden, in the Old Senate Chamber at the U.S. Capitol on Thursday, January 3, 2013, in Washington. Fischer previously was sworn in officially on the floor of the Senate to begin the 113th Congress.

After a full day of celebration and ceremony, Sen. Deb Fischer focused late Thursday on a commitment to reduce federal spending.

"We need to step up and make those tough decisions now," Fischer said in a telephone interview from Washington hours after she took the oath of office as the first woman ever elected by Nebraskans to serve a full term in the U.S. Senate.  

After approval of legislation during the final days of the old Congress locking in income tax cuts for more than 98 percent of Americans, Fischer said, "I hope we can redirect the conversation now to make those decisions" to cut spending.

Fischer left little question that she would have been a doubtful vote for the compromise package that increased income taxes for families earning more than $450,000 a year.

"I wasn't part of the discussion," she said.  "That always plays a role in decision-making."

But, in a more revealing PBS interview with Judy Woodruff earlier this week, Fischer said: "I don't support tax increases (or) added burdens on people who create jobs."   

"Spending is the problem," she told Woodruff.  "It was not addressed in this bill."

Fischer, whose election last November gives Nebraska two Republican senators, said she was "very pleased" by committee assignments revealed earlier in the day that will position her right where she wanted to be.

A seat on the Armed Services Committee will give her an opportunity to help protect the interests of the country and the economy of the state, Fischer said. 

Offutt Air Force Base, the headquarters for the U.S. Strategic Command, has a huge economic impact, especially in the metropolitan Omaha area.

As a member of that committee, Fischer may be participating in the confirmation hearings for a former Nebraskan she knows well if former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel is nominated by President Barack Obama to be secretary of defense.

"I know Chuck well and I like Chuck and we've had great conversations in the past," Fischer said, but she is not prepared to pledge her support for his confirmation if he is nominated in advance of those hearings.

"We would need to go through the process before making a decision," she said.

"I would look forward to meeting with him," Fischer said. "I would have a number of questions about his views on different areas."

Fischer declined to identify those topics.

A seat on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee is a perfect fit for her, Fischer said, blending well with her legislative experience in promoting infrastructure development.

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Fischer authored legislation in Nebraska that will speed up road construction with additional funding provided by a slice of revenue from the current state sales tax rate. 

And, she said, she'll be able to work on other infrastructure issues like broadband development as a member of the Senate committee.

With a large contingent of family and friends on hand, Fischer took the oath to succeed Democratic Sen. Ben Nelson and joined Republican Sen. Mike Johanns as Nebraska's Senate tandem earlier in the day.

Fischer and her family had lunch in the Senate dining room and later she joined Vice President Joe Biden in the old Senate chamber for a ceremonial swearing-in photo session. 

The well-worn Bible her grandmother gave her for Christmas in 1955 was in her hands during the official swearing-in ceremony.

 

Reach Don Walton at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

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Political reporter

Don Walton, a Husker and Yankee fan, is a longtime Journal Star political and government reporter.

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