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Roll Call New Member Profiles: 113th Congress
  • Election: Defeated Bob Kerrey, D, to succeed Sen. Ben Nelson, D, who retired
  • Residence: Valentine
  • Born: March 1, 1951; Lincoln, Neb.
  • Religion: Presbyterian
  • Family: Husband, Bruce Fischer; three children
  • Education: U. of Nebraska, B.S. 1988
  • Career: Rancher
  • Political highlights: Valentine Rural High School Board of Education, 1990-2004; Neb. Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education, 2000-2004; Neb. Legislature, 2005-present

Deb Fischer, R-Nebraska
Senate

A record for beating well-known rivals and clinching deals as a state legislator could position Deb Fischer as a leading voice for her party’s conservative wing and for a Republican caucus with few veteran female members.

Fischer earned a reputation for moving conservative priorities in the unicameral legislature, including a mandate for voter approval of increases in local occupation taxes. She drew praise from conservatives for helping to enact a ban on the taking of property for government-backed economic development projects. But Fischer supported the Keystone XL pipeline and argued that such interstate projects could require the use of eminent-domain power. She pushed for compromise and backed a new route away from the heart of the Oglalla Aquifer on her home turf in the Sand Hills region.

A stint as chairwoman of the Transportation and Telecommunications panel makes Fischer a candidate for the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee. Her role in managing a family cattle ranch could send her to Small Business and Entrepreneurship or Agriculture, and her focus on education could fill a niche on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Regardless of assignments, the two-term state senator likely will serve as a face for her party on pocketbook issues and as a bridge between party leaders and freshmen.

A fiscal conservative and foe of abortion, Fischer vows to serve no more than two terms and urges tougher ethics laws. She backs a lifetime ban on lobbying jobs for former lawmakers, as well as term limits for House members (six years) and Senators (12 years). Fischer says some lawmakers in both parties “put their personal interests first and don’t function in the citizens’ best interest.”

The daughter of a former state roads director and a Lincoln schoolteacher, Fischer shows a pragmatic streak. For example, she worked out differences to reserve part of the state’s general fund, amounting to a quarter-cent of the 5.5-cent sales tax, for roads.

She defends the Education Department against proposals for its elimination but criticizes the education overhaul signed into law in 2002. “The federal government needs to offer more flexibility to the states,” she says.

Criticized during the campaign as a “welfare rancher” for her family’s use of more than 11,000 acres of leased federal land, Fisher argued for sales of public land to raise funds. But she spurned proposals by Democrats to raise federal grazing fees.

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