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Weekly Column: Resolutions for a New Year


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This new year brings to Washington a fresh start. Last week, we welcomed to the 113th Congress many new faces, including my colleague Senator Deb Fischer.

I am proud to be joined by such a competent and capable leader who has aptly served Nebraska for years. I am confident Deb will bring the same passion to Capitol Hill, and I look forward to working with her to address the issues facing our state and country.

Although it's a new year and a new session, many of the important issues we must tackle are far from novel. Our country's debt has grown, and the government is spending more than it takes in. Our economy is still searching for traction, and many Americans remain unemployed or underemployed.

In 2013, Congress must resolve to make these issues the top priority. We cannot afford to let this opportunity to address the state of our economy slip away.

For my part, I will be joining the Senate Committee on Appropriations, which is directly involved in doling out and reining in federal dollars for different government programs--I think it's time we do less of the former and more of the latter. We need to find places to trim the fat while ensuring important programs receive adequate resources. This will require difficult decisions by me and all of my colleagues in Congress--decisions that must be made.

I will also remain on the Agriculture, Veterans' Affairs and Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs committees, where I will continue to push for a new five-year farm bill, strengthen and improve services for our vets and fight for pro-growth financial reform policies.

The committee process is essential to the operation of the Senate. The most effective method for the Senate to get its work done in a timely manner is by debating and amending bills in committee, then allowing the full Senate an opportunity to debate and amend them. That's how the Senate is supposed to work and how potential new laws should be scrutinized. Unfortunately, for far too long Congress has failed to pass a budget. The result has been a sputtering Senate which lurches from one crisis to the next, often stalling until the last minute. Senators have been resigned to voting on massive year-end bills to avert calamities we've all known were coming.

We must return to a regular order where bills can be thoroughly vetted in committee and debated in the Senate with opportunities for amendments along the way. Unfortunately, the Senate has not been allowed to work this way in recent years.

Clearly, we have our work cut out for us in 2013, but I am optimistic that we can achieve our goals if we take advantage of this new window of opportunity and allow the Senate processes to work as designed. As I have in the past, I stand ready to work with my fellow Senators from both sides of the aisle to make the difficult decisions we were sent here to make.

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