She is the only Republican freshman in the Senate to have picked up a Democratic seat, and she has had a series of tricky votes and issues to navigate in her first days in office. Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.) has pulled it off with aplomb.
On New Year’s Day, she held her own on the “PBS Newshour,” rebuffing Judy Woodruff’s attempt to badger her to into endorsing tax hikes:
JUDY WOODRUFF: Do you think tax increases in any form have a role in balancing the budget, in eventually balancing the budget and in addressing the deficit?
DEB FISCHER: I don’t support tax increases. I campaigned saying I don’t support tax increases. I don’t want to see added burdens on people who create jobs. I think that’s the wrong way to go about this. As you said in my introduction, I did defeat Bob Kerrey by a very wide margin. I did that because Nebraskans elected me knowing I don’t support tax increases.
WOODRUFF: I ask you because in this deal … that came out of the Senate that the House is now considering, 99 percent of Americans will keep their tax cuts.
Only less than 1 percent, people earning over $450,000 a year, you’re saying that is still unacceptable?
FISCHER: Well, of course we have to provide those tax cuts to the 99 percent. But we’re playing politics by doing it.
We’re saying, okay, we’re going to provide tax cuts for these people, but the rest, they have to pay more. We don’t need to create more division in this country. I mean, just look at Washington. I’m on the outside right now until Thursday.
WOODRUFF: Right. Right.
FISCHER: Look at Washington. It is so polarized. And talk like that just makes it worse.
WOODRUFF: So, the argument that … there should be a balanced approach, that there should be spending cuts, but that there also needs to be tax increases, your answer is?
FISCHER: My answer is that we need to look at spending cuts. We need to look at entitlements. We need to look at regulations. We need to look at a tax code that’s broken, that both sides agree is broken, but that hasn’t been part of this discussion either.
WOODRUFF: But, again, spending only is what you’re saying?
FISCHER: I’m saying that we need to cut the spending, and every American knows that.
She didn’t say that she wouldn’t vote to protect the 99 percent, but she did make clear if she had her way (the Republicans don’t), she wouldn’t raise tax rates. (Woodruff would, apparently.)
On guns she sounded empathetic but firm: “Well, first of all, it’s horrible, horrible what happened to those children and the adults in that school [in Newtown, Conn.]. And every American, we know that, and our heart goes out to those people. But I am a strong supporter of our Second Amendment rights. And so I believe that we don’t need to act swiftly now in reaction and having an emotional reaction to a horrible situation and put on limits on our constitutional rights.”
Then came time to save the 99 percent, and she voted for the fiscal cliff deal, resisting the urge to play to the right-wing peanut gallery as some other Republicans did.
Next she was asked about the nomination of her former home-state senator Chuck Hagel. The pressure on the home team to back nominees from their state can be intense, but she showed, again, some spine and put out a statement that hinted at her disagreements with Hagel: “I plan to closely review Senator Hagel’s record and look forward to meeting with him to discuss his views on America’s role in an increasingly dangerous world.” A source familiar with her thinking tells Right Turn that it would become obvious as a member of the Armed Services Committee that “she’s not a shrinking violet.”
And then Saturday she was selected for the weekly Republican address including this:
Rather than cutting wasteful spending, the federal government added $4 billion each day to our gross national debt. This path is not sustainable. I support a more limited government that focuses on fulfilling its core duties and responsibilities. Only then can we identify the national priorities worthy of taxpayer funding.
The Constitution clearly states that the top priority for Congress is to ‘provide for the common defense.’ Despite this core duty, nearly a trillion dollars in critical national security funding is slated to be dangerously cut from the defense budget over the next decade — all because some leaders in Washington can’t get their priorities straight.
“As a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, I’m 100 percent committed to both reducing spending and meeting my constitutional obligation to defend this nation. It is equally important to uphold America’s promises to active-duty service members and veterans, those who have risked life and limb in defense of our nation. Keeping faith with these brave Americans is more than our responsibility; it is our honor to do so.
It’s no secret that to cut spending, we must find ways to reduce the costs of Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid — the primary drivers of our national debt. We must do so in a way that keeps our promises to America’s seniors, retirees and those nearing retirement age. That is not a point for debate. But in order to save these popular programs, we must reform them. If not, they will no longer exist for future generations and will bankrupt us in the meantime.
We know now that she’s no fan of the sequester or America’s international retreat. We know she is a firm but practical fiscal conservative. In a week or so she’s handled herself as well if not better than many more experienced GOP pols. So, well done, Sen. Fischer!