By Ja'Nel Johnson
Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) have introduced a bill that would modify the way Pentagon officials select sexual assault prevention officers in the military. The announcement was made during a conference call to Nebraska reporters on Tuesday.
Fischer met with the Senate Armed Services Committee on Monday of this week to discuss pending legislation concerning sexual assault in the military. She believes the bill, which requires a more rigorous screening and certification process, will add a heightened level of accountability and scrutiny to the position.
“We must ensure that those charged with keeping our men and women in uniform safe within their own ranks are of the highest caliber,” Fischer said. “The bill introduced by myself and Sen. Shaheen does advance that goal.”
During Tuesday’s conference call, Fisher also noted that the senate plans to vote on the farm bill beginning Thursday morning. While Fisher said that she is generally pleased by the provisions in the bill to maintain and strengthen the crop insurance program, she is concerned about spending for nutrition programs that currently are included in the proposal.
“Out of the $760 billion that is slated to be spent in the next 10 years, only $4 billion is being cut by this Senate bill,” Fischer said. “I believe this proposal misses some key opportunities in additional savings in the nutrition titles by not eliminating loop holes or duplicative programs.”
Fischer said she plans to look for additional opportunities to support good agricultural policy that’s also cost effective.
“I look forward to working with my colleagues on efforts to improve the bill on our agriculture industry, which is the No. 1 industry in the state of Nebraska.”
The current policy on student loan debt will also be considered by the full senate on Thursday. Congress has until July 1 to decide if interest rates on subsidized Stafford Loans will increase to 6.8 percent.
“As many college graduates face an uncertain future in a difficult job market upon acquiring their degrees, Congress does have the opportunity to help ease some of their worries with respect to student loan debt,” she said.
Fischer said she does not agree with the Democrats proposal to temporarily extend the current rate of 3.4 percent for two years and offset the $8.3 billion cost of the extension with permanent tax hikes.
She does support an alternative proposal authored by her fellow Republican senators that would base the student loan interest rates off investment market rates.