Nebraska’s United States senators took a pragmatic approach to the bill that ended the federal government shutdown and raised the debt ceiling.
Neither state they like the deal. Both say they voted for it to end weeks of acrimony and avoid default.
Sen. Deb Fischer, a Republican, says the world watches when Washington goes into gridlock and that isn’t good when you live in a dangerous world.
“When we have a government that is shutdown, when we have a government that is dysfunctional and the leaders of that government are in disarray our enemies out there are watching us and they are taking note of that. That is a threat to our national security,” Fischer tells Nebraska Radio Network.
Fischer says she wasn’t thrilled with the outcome that ended the fiscal impasse in Washington, but it wasn’t the product that frustrated her as much as the process.
“I’m very, very frustrated by the process here. I’m willing to give this another chance, but this is the last chance, I think,” Fischer says. “We go from crisis to crisis to crisis here in Washington. That is certainly not the way for the greatest country in the world to behave.”
The Senate took up the measure first, passing it easily. The House followed, but only after enough Republicans joined a united Democratic Caucus to approve the measure and send it to President Barack Obama, who signed it immediately.
The bill funds the federal government through mid-January. It raises the $16.7 trillion debt ceiling enough to get through early February.
In the meantime, the Senate-House conference committee has been charged with working out disagreements and forging a budget that can pass Congress and be signed into law by President Barack Obama. Both chambers have approved a budget. A compromise hasn’t been reached.
Sen. Mike Johanns says the agreement reached to re-open the federal government and raise the debt ceiling has two positive aspects.
First, it keeps spending cuts in place.
Second, it relies on the Senate-House budget conference committee to work out broader budget disagreements between the two chambers.
“I just firmly believe that if we got ourselves on a pathway of doing budgets again we would come to grips with these issues,” Johanns tells Nebraska reporters during a conference call. “We would start to realize that we can cut discretionary spending substantially as we are doing under the Budget Control Act, but really what is driving the spending and will be driving spending over time is entitlements.”
Johanns, a Republican, says Congress must address the fiscal problems plaguing Social Security and Medicare.
Still, Johanns says he’s pleased the automatic cuts, often called the sequestration, contained in the Budget Control Act remain.
“Now, I will be also the first to acknowledge it is inartful, it’s a clumsy weapon that we’re using to deal with spending. My hope is that the conference committee will do a better job,” Johanns says. “But, at the end of the day we have to cut spending around here. We just can’t sustain the kind of debt that we’re piling on our kids and grandkids. It’s just not right.”
Johanns says he favors keeping the spending caps in place, but giving federal agencies more flexibility in how they implement them.