A (written) interview with U.S. Senator Deb Fischer

Miss Nebraska, Hoang-Kim Cung and Senator Deb Fischer
Miss Nebraska, Hoang-Kim Cung and Senator Deb Fischer

When I last spoke with Nebraska’s senior U.S. Senator, Deb Fischer, it was on one of my very first podcasts on The Wheels Down Politics Show. It turned out that I rambled on and on, and only eventually let the Senator get a few words in edge-wise. (Hey, I was new…)

So four months later, we spoke on the phone again, and this time she is the first person I have interviewed for  a non-audio format

We sort of free-wheeled it and she hit a number of different issues in front of  the Senate and in the public eye…


I asked her about the current Trade deals going through Congress now. (First, I would note that it can be very tricky to distinguish between the TPA, the TPP and the TAA, among others. The Washington Post put together a primer on these.)

But focusing just on the TPA — to give the President the authority to negotiate a trade agreement, then have Congress have an up or down vote — Senator Fischer has a few thoughts:

After the Senate passed the original TPA bill, the House passed their version and it will now come back to the Senate. I am for it. It puts the United States at the table so the Administration can negotiate agreements. Some get nervous about it, or some aren’t in favor because of who is in the White House. But this is for a six-year period, and there will be a new President in January 2017.

I believe any President needs to have that authority so we can export our products. Nebraskans understand how important that is. What carried us through the economic down times is the agriculture economy in Nebraska.

Any large trade agreements take months and months to hammer out. They would otherwise need an OK before they could take that next step, so the TPA helps accomplish that. I support Trade.


But the TAA — the Trade Adjustment Assistance — is another animal, which provides assistance to those who would lose their job because of a trade agreement (however that is defined). This is a Democrat priority. However, the House Democrats didn’t do the President any favors, as Senator Fischer noted:

The Democrats in the House gave a slap to the President. And he hasn’t developed any relationships in his own party to get their support on an agreement that is important to him.

In the meantime the TPA will be on the President’s desk. It’s then up to the President and House members to get the Democrats to vote with him. This is a Democrat program.

And about those Unions, who are the ones preventing the TAA from passing in the House?

The Senate Democrats were willing to go with the combined agreements — but they were Senators from states without a strong Union presence. The Unions threatened to withhold any campaign contributions to any Members who supported this trade agreement.

I get tired of those who scream and yell about the influence of the Koch brothers. I’ve never even met them. Yet the Unions rank way above the Koch brothers in influence. You never hear all of the lopsided stories about the problem the Unions made for the Democrats.


I asked about a recent National Journal story that talked about the political problems of passing the Defense Appropriations bill in the Senate. Senator Fischer noted that this should be the top priority of the Federal Government.

We followed the process and took up Republican and Democrat amendments — and accepted amendments from both sides. In the end only 4 Democrats voted against the bill in Committee. But we are now hearing that President Obama will issue a veto.

This is a bill that authorizes funding for the military. National defense is the number one priority of the Federal government, and giving the military the resources they need is the top priority.

The Defense Appropriations bill is what pays for it, yet it didn’t pass — on a strict party line vote. The American people won’t stand for that — to say we won’t give the money for equipment and training.

This isn’t because because of caps or sequestration — this is because they say we also have to fund the EPA and the IRS. So so we can’t fund the military? This is a Democrat protest.


Senator Fischer also added there is a new benefit to members of the military in the Defense bill, that was never there before — a 401(k) for the military.

This is a new idea for them — which is an old one for people in other professions — just because change is hard. But we are an all-volunteer force and we want to make it attractive for people to stay in. Before, service members could only get a pension if they were in for 20 years. Now, if we can add a 401(k) for people in less than 20 years, it will make the military more welcoming.


Senator Fischer recently returned from a trip to Central and Eastern Europe. Looking at military issues, she had meeting and briefings in Stuttgart with members of the African and European command on issues ranging from immigration to counter-terrorism.

She then visited and met with the Prime Ministers and Defense Ministers and ambassadors in Estonia, the Czech Republic and Romania.

We had classified briefings in Estonia — the first time I had one presented by another country. The Estonians were very open with us.

They have many challenges from their immediate neighbor to the east, Russia. They face cyber attacks from them. Belligerent actions. Troop movements. They belive that Russia and President Putin only respect strength. If the Russians think you are weak, they will push it to the limit.

The Estonians want more Americans there — stationed there permanently and a strong NATO presence. Their hope is that in the event of a Russian invasion, they could hold on for 72 hours before NATO forces could arrive.

They love the United States, for one reason because the US never recognized the Baltic takeover by the Soviet Union.

The Estonians wanted to talk about Russia. The Czechs wanted to talk about Russia. And the Romanians wanted to talk about Russia. They would all feel more comfortable with a NATO presence.


An update on Senator Fischer’s transportation bill — the Build USA Act (S.1296).

More Senators want to learn more about it.

The bill is based on what we did in Nebraska for the buy-back program (not LB84, the specific roads funding bill) where cities and counties can exchange money with the Department of Roads and advance projects that have been held up. It’s an exchange program — which will need a new bank for states to exchange Federal money — and they will still have to meet certain rules, but won’t have to jump through as many hoops for Federal dollars

It works great in Nebraska and would be great at the Federal level.

Finally, with time winding down, I got to ask Senator Fischer about the BIG issue of the day: Changing the face on the $10 bill.

Well, maybe not so much to her…

I get kind of tired of this stuff. What women care about is security — not who is on the $10 bill.

Women want security for families, economic security, national security — what all other Americans want. Sometimes when we look at things like whose face is on the currency, we lose what should be our main focus.

And people don’t carry cash anyway! (laughter)

Symbols are good. I realize that I’m a symbol to many, and I take it seriously. It is moving when people bring their kids here. People especially want their young daughters to stand with me — and that’s important, because we need to show people what is possible. You can be male or female and achieve whatever you want.

Virginia Smith Photo 01But there are so many big issues that we need to address.

And Senator Fischer noted one of HER role models…

(Third District Congresswoman) Virginia Smith was quite a wonderful representative. I have one of her ads, that I found about ten months ago, from her first race. I had kept an old Valentine (Nebraska) newspaper because of a recipe, and as I was going through it, there was a Virginia Smith for Congress ad. So I cut it out and kept it

And it is now framed in my office.


Whew that was a lot of writing!

Next time we’re going podcast.

Thanks Senator!


  1. TexasAnnie says:

    Sen. Fischer is okay. Trade is good!

    I do have her voting record while a Nebraska Senator though, and her votes regarding DD services in Nebraska is moribund! Policy established by Ben Nelson and fatefully executed by Fischer et. al. (Nelson called it “structured growth”) did result in the Beatrice 10. Fischer and the entire unicam can NEVER outgrow that dilemma of moral failure. Nor can ANY Nebraskan, for that matter!

  2. Editoralmighty says:

    This was a useful text. Complex issues were laid out in quoted text to be digested. If not for this being written down, we might have missed that:

    1) Fischer details unions hobbling Democrat lawmakers re various arcane parts of the trade deal,

    2) Showed how Democrats hold National Defense hostage for sake of EPA and IRS. And,

    3) While Fischer lauds the benefit of military retirement getting a 401K, she omits the fact that the overall result would be total retirement cut by 20%. – This and more can be gleaned because it was written down.

    Going podcast is easier but arguably less useful and all but impossible to edit for presentation.

    If this was “a lot of writing,” you might consider talking to a court reporter about transcription programs. While writing is slow and hard, editing is faster and far more powerful.

    Editing a quoted story, which is what an interview is, is far more powerful than interviewing. It is making your case with the same quotable facts without being seen to make it. Every act of editing exercises the extreme power and efficacy to subtly sculpt a story’s delivery with absolute faceless anonymity. You can be known as the interviewer but can never be seen editing what is presented. The power is vast and I’d not suggest it here but for some trust in your ethical nature.

  3. CWS fan says:

    I go to the Blatt quite often. Never have known the bathrooms to be devoid of people. Was he drunk and fell down? How do you get your leg broke by being punched?

  4. Stealth Midget says:

    “According to the police report, Harr told investigators that someone assaulted him in the restroom, hitting him in the left leg and leaving before he could see who did it.”

  5. Should be easy to track down a 3 foot tall midget strong enough to break someone’s leg with a punch. Anyone know the whereabouts of Tyrion Lannister?

    And for those of you suggesting the Senator was falling down drunk and, well, fell down and broke his leg, and nooked up a really lame (har!) alibi: just because a story is far more plausible, doesn’t mean it’s true!

    Me, I’m going with the Mighty Midget. A State Senator wouldn’t lie.

  6. PI Lawyer says:

    If Senator Harr was taken to an emergency room they would have drawn his blood. Senator Harr should release his medical records so we can know what was in or not in his system that night.

  7. Tough Breaks says:

    I taught surgical technique. Do you know how hard it is to break both your tibia and fibula at once? The surgery was probably for pinning and we cannot know if the breaks were compound, complex or conchoidal suggestive of an oblique or other impact but, heck, it’s a men’s room so there are only so many things that can come to mind as reasons for how this could have happened. And short of a baseball bat being wielded by Al Capone, the possibilities are limited.

    One possibility is he was standing on the toilet, maybe getting his knob polished by someone who isn’t much of a sports fan. That can distract one and bring one down with enough force to break both lower bones at once, especially if one had tensed up at the last minute thereby causing undue lack of flexibility that only worsens the impact.

    That is probably not something you would advertise as a Republican but as a Democrat you’d think it would get the guy more votes.

    Bone is extremely tough material. But it’s always toughest when it fills the space between one’s ears. The calcified brain is apparent in those who believe this ridiculous story told by Senator Harr.

    Christ, if this was a Republican the media would be checking his colon for footprints.

  8. Bob Loblaw says:

    Senator Fischer is a great representative of Sandhill common sense. We’re lucky to have someone like that representing us.

  9. TexasAnnie says:

    Hey Bob Loblaw: YOU certainly ARE lucky to have a REPRESENTATIVE.

    But WHO will represent the developmentally disabled of Nebraska? Deb did not, while in the unicam, and I haven’t been able to detect any such action on her part now at the federal level of governance. I do understand that the developmentally disabled are always sent to the back of the bus, but I believe under Deb’s leadership, they have been thrown under the bus! Do you have any evidence indicating otherwise?

  10. TexasAnnie says:

    Hey Deb Fischer: I agree that women want security. But they also want recognition and status. Let’s go with Susan B. Anthony!

  11. Anonymous says:

    You know “Grundle King” you always have something nasty, demeaning and/ disgusting to say. Most of it isn’t funny and adds nothing. Other places your comments are deleted. Try being civil.

  12. Interested Observer says:

    It’s amazing that DEB FI$CHER happens to know, “What women care about is security”.

    Some women also want “security” to mean having DEB FI$CHER to have actually co-sponsored the Violence Against Women Act renewal. Seems she was the only woman in the entire United States Senate to NOT co-sponsor that. She did ultimately vote for it’s passage, but did not co-sponsor.

  13. No knee pads says:

    I see that some Liberals are unhappy that Root was captured alive. It was Liberals who banned Nebraska executions. So Liberals want police to execute Root extra-legally?

    The white killer Root was identified to police by his white sister, noticed and followed by a white woman driver that got him caught by white police, and his white uncle is volunteering to legally execute his own white nephew. But that’s not enough for Liberals?

    Apparently Root should have been shot to death? Just like every Black murderer who fills prisons beyond proportionality, was shot to death before they was caught and sentenced to prison? Obviously all murderers in prison are alive. And in Nebraska especially.

    This nonsense is coming from White Liberal Democrats. It isn’t Ernie Chambers. Ernie is a Black Independent reliant on black suffering. He is stuck with that role as his only route to power. Black suffering however isn’t beneficial to White NE State Senators who stand on the wallets of their mostly white constituents. They; White Social Liberals (Democrat and RINOs); think that by sucking on Ernie’s proposal to end executions that could gain some image-votes for kindness. Or they just like sucking in Ernie’s proposals.

    Everyone want their cake and to eat it too. But this is a crap sandwich. And we cannot help but think that a second house might look at the first house, here on their knees before Ernie, and say “Wow, that’s really gross”. But then we’d be having this discussion about gay rights.

  14. I doubt IO has much idea what’s in the Violence Against Women Act. It contains many things a conservative wouldn’t support.

    It’s too bad; when you remove the obsessive antipathy to Deb Fischer, IO is often worth reading.

  15. Interested Observer says:

    RWP, if you had been able to read my original post about Violence Against Women in it’s entirety, it would have been clearly self explanatory. But Street Sweeper deleted it. This watered down, very abbreviated version didn’t make my original point at all.

    It seems that some people were quite sensitive to my original post on this matter.

  16. The Grundle King says:

    I afford people as much respect as they’ve earned. If that offends you, then welcome to the internet.

    Ricky Fulton fancies himself as some brilliant political mind, but he’s not. Not even close. You want to talk about nasty, demeaning, and disgusting…read his comments sometime. Or some of those comments written by ‘Interested Observer’, who also apparently writes things on occasions that warrant deletion. I will give ‘IO’ some credit though, as her posts occasionally contain a few shreds of substance, whereas Ricky’s do not.

    And the question that got deleted on Watchdog was a legitimate question. As a Recreation Associate for the UNMC, I’m assuming that Ricky’s job consists mostly of organizing games, playing games, and cleaning up after said games have been played. Surely, in the course of playing games involving a ball (i.e. dodgeball, kickball, etc.), the ball used probably gets a little dirty and may require a good washing and perhaps disinfection…MRSA in hospitals is a big deal, you know.

    When someone feels compelled to talk about how boring they find one of our Senators, then I’m not going to feel bad about flipping a little crap back at them.

  17. Macdaddy says:

    Getting back to the interview (You’re welcome, Sweeper), I disagree with Fischer’s support of any of the trade bills. There is too much secrecy and very little debate about this. I don’t think she realizes that trust in the government to do anything but line their buddies’ pockets is at an all time low. I realize that Obama won’t get to use any of this authority but when we currently have a law breaking President who has moved the bar as far as dishonesty and chutzpah goes, I would expect the next one to be even worse, especially if it’s Killary. There’s no rush. Let’s have a reasonable national conversation about this. Or at least try.

  18. Gristle says:

    Fischer is criticized for being quiet and working behind the scenes. Yet dispassionate circumspection is required to win limited resources in any deliberative body. It is the job, if you are doing it right.

    Legislation is a meat grinder where your interests survive only if your guy or gal is turning the grinder handle. In a House or Senate, you are either a sausage-maker or the sausage.

    Fischer managed to press a few initiatives through a unicameral grinder so dysfunctional that it’s tacitly GOP and Democratic senators today kneel before a nonpartisan barber. If she can grind out some for NE in DC, good for NE. Its either that or we are ground for consumption by 49 other states.

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