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Weekly Column: A Busy Month Ahead


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After spending the August work period visiting with our constituents, Congress is now gearing up for a busy month of legislative business. The situation in Syria has captured the attention of the president, lawmakers, and the American people. As Nebraskans know, the president is calling for a military response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people.

After several days of debate with his White House advisors, President Obama surprised the world and announced that he would first seek congressional authorization before using military force against Syria.

Since that announcement, I have participated in two separate telephone briefings and traveled to Washington to attend a classified briefing of the Senate Armed Services Committee with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. A vote on a resolution authorizing a limited strike is expected in the Senate the week of September 8.

I agree that any use of chemical weapons, particularly on civilians and children, is, as Secretary Kerry stated, a "moral obscenity." But I also believe that military action must be reserved for situations where there is a clear national security interest. Moreover, any military action must be one component of a broader, coherent foreign policy strategy to stabilize the region. The administration has not yet provided this basis for action. Additionally, I am seeking answers as to how exactly the administration plans to deal with regional consequences -- unintended or otherwise -- after a possible strike on Syria.

I will be assessing the president's plans, along with the resolution, to determine if there are clearly defined goals. I want to know what success will look like -- and so do Nebraskans. ABC's foreign policy reporter, Martha Raddatz, said recently, it's not that Americans are necessarily "war-weary," it's that "the American public and the military is war-wise." I agree. We know all too well what's at stake.

The proposed debate on the Syria resolution has delayed floor action on an energy bill, which was slated for consideration. The legislation, sponsored by Senators Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), supports energy-efficiency in building codes, manufacturing, supply chains, electric motors, transformers, and federal agencies. The Senate is now expected to take up the bill when it concludes debate on Syria.

Finally, Congress must address two separate spending issues in the coming weeks: funding the government for the next fiscal year and reaching the nation's debt ceiling.

This pair of decision-points presents Congress with the opportunity to address our out-of-control spending problem. Nebraskans know that Congress doesn't act unless it is forced to do so. That's why I look forward to the debate surrounding our rising debt, which has been ignored for much of the past year.

Unfortunately, there does not appear to be much appetite for making tough decisions right now in Washington. Nonetheless, I will continue to explore ways with my colleagues, Republicans and Democrats, to find areas where we can begin to make progress in addressing our debt crisis.

Finally, these spending matters present a last chance to deal with the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, before its implementation begins on October 1. The president has already acknowledged the bill is not ready for "prime time" and has delayed the law for big businesses. It's time to delay it for all Americans. I believe it's simply a matter of fairness.

That's why I have been working to scrap this flawed law, which is causing employers to reduce hours and curb hiring. As a result of this growing part-time economy, employees are coming home with smaller paychecks, hours have been cut, some have already experienced changes -- and losses -- of their health insurance, and consumers are seeing increased premium costs. We can do better.

Thank for you for participating in the democratic process, and I look forward to visiting with you again next week.

Deb Fischer
U.S. Senator

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