Weekly Column

Jan 25 2021

A New Congress

*Click here to download audio of this week’s column** 

When Joe Biden was inaugurated on January 20, he became our 46th president. Forty-six presidents isn’t many for a country that’s nearly 250 years old – presidential elections only come around once every four years, and many presidents hold office for two terms.

A new Congress, on the other hand, convenes every two years. Every other January, regardless of the outcome of the presidential election, new senators and congressmen take their seats, unpassed bills expire, and the legislative branch starts anew.

Both of these things have happened so regularly since our nation’s founding that we’ve almost come to take them for granted. But the truth is that we shouldn’t: After George Washington refused a third term in 1796, the world was shocked. No one in modern history had given up power the way he did. In fact, when King George III heard that Washington was planning to resign, he said, “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.”

Our democracy persists because of our first president’s faith in the American people. Today, it is up to each of us to live up to that faith and move forward as one nation, both Democrats and Republicans. As our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, was fond of saying, we are one country, and we have one destiny.

In the Senate, we’re moving forward by taking up the work of a new Congress. Earlier this month, I spoke with transportation secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg about how he plans to run the Transportation Department if he is confirmed by the Senate. I asked many of the questions that I know Nebraskans want answers to, including how he plans to keep America’s infrastructure up to date and whether he intends to integrate important new technologies into our transportation system.

Vetting nominees and holding votes on their confirmation is a big part of the Senate’s job in the months after a new president takes office, and this year will be no different. The day after President Biden was inaugurated, the House and Senate approved a waiver for Lloyd Austin’s nomination to serve as secretary of defense, and confirmed him the next day.

This waiver is required for nominees for the top job at the Pentagon who have been retired from active service for less than seven years. General Austin is qualified for this position, and I voted both for this waiver and for his confirmation. Now that he has been confirmed,I’m committed to working with him to keep America safe. This includes continuing to care for the men and women of our military, modernizing our nuclear forces, strengthening our Air Force capabilities, and supporting Nebraska’s critical defense assets.

On January 22, I was pleased to speak with Gina Raimondo, the Governor of Rhode Island and President Biden’s nominee for secretary of commerce. If she is confirmed, I look forward to working with her on the things that matter most to our economy.

Later the same day, I also spoke to a group of beginning farmers through the Nebraska Corn Growers Association’s PRIME Program. This program selects up to 12 of Nebraska’s most promising young producers and teaches them about the industry’s newest technologies, best practices, and most up-to-date research. I enjoyed telling them about what the U.S. Senate is doing to provide more certainty for Nebraska producers.

As we begin both a new Congress and a new presidency, I will continue to make sure the hardworking families who call Nebraska home are heard in Washington.

It is my honor to serve as your senator, and I will express my views just as straightforwardly to the Biden administration as I have to the previous two. I look forward to finding common ground where we can and working for Nebraskans on the issues that matter most. I hope you will continue to share your thoughts and concerns with me so that together we can build stronger communities and a stronger Nebraska.

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