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Sen. Deb Fischer said Thursday she would give President Donald Trump a "B" for performance as he reaches the halfway point of his four-year term, withholding a higher grade essentially because of his policies on trade.

But Fischer, who was sworn in earlier in the day to launch her second six-year term in the Senate, said she is "excited about agreement on the new NAFTA," the revised trade compact negotiated by the United States, Canada and Mexico that has been tagged with the new name of USMCA. 

"We have differences, obviously, on trade," Fischer said during a telephone interview from Washington.

"And I have not been completely talked into (supporting) a space force yet."

However, Nebraska's senior Republican senator said "I think the president has good accomplishments" to point to after two years in the White House.

Trump's protective trade policies and imposition of new U.S. tariffs have had a negative impact on U.S. agriculture by reducing foreign markets for farm products. 

A recent study by the Nebraska Farm Bureau estimated that retaliatory tariffs triggered by new U.S. steel and aluminum tariffs led to between $700 million and $1 billion in lost farm income in Nebraska this past year.

Fischer gave Trump good marks on his strong support for beefed-up national security and national defense, his "excellent job" in appointing conservative federal judges and for the strong working relationship she has been able to forge with the White House.

"By any measure, our military needs to be built up," she said, although she continues to have doubts about Trump's proposal for creation of a new military space force. 

Fischer is the third-most senior member on the Senate Armed Services Committee and chairman of its subcommittee on strategic forces, which has jurisdiction over nuclear and strategic forces.

Modernization of the nuclear deterrent will be "a focus and a priority," she said.

In the new Congress, Fischer will retain her chairmanship of the surface transportation subcommittee of the Commerce Committee along with her seat on the Agriculture Committee.

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Fischer said she will be focused on "following through on projects" already in the works, including construction of new VA medical facilities in Omaha and Lincoln, along with new runway construction at Offutt Air Force Base.

"Infrastructure will be a priority" in the new Congress, she said, and she will center on roads and broadband deployment.

Fischer said infrastructure modernization and improvement offers a good opportunity for bipartisan agreement in what now is a divided Congress, although she believes "that may be easier to accomplish in the Senate than in the House."

The Senate remains controlled by a Republican majority, but the House has moved to Democratic control.

"I hope we can continue to work together as we did on the new farm bill," Fischer said.

However, she said, "I don't see a way forward right now. People aren't talking (and) this could go on a while. We need to see friends on the other side start talking."

Reach the writer at 402-473-7248 or dwalton@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSDon.

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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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