WASHINGTON — Deb Fischer cast a skeptical eye at the stew served at the Senate luncheon.
Do they call this beef?, the Valentine, Neb., cattle rancher asked. We expect steaks come January, U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., quipped.
Good-natured ribbing was just part of this week's Senate orientation for Fischer and 11 other soon-to-be freshmen.
The Republican won't be sworn in until the first week of January, but there is much to do before then.
For example, she has to jockey for committee assignments.
In particular, she wants a seat on the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee.
Fischer is replacing the retiring Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., who used his positions on that panel and on the Appropriations Committee to keep an eye out for both U.S. Strategic Command and its home, Offutt Air Force Base.
Sen. Mike Johanns, R-Neb., is after a spot on the Appropriations Committee.
Fischer said it's important to continue looking out for StratCom and Offutt.
“It's important for Nebraska, for our economy, and not just for Bellevue and Omaha, but for the state as a whole,” she said.
Fischer also has to interview and hire staff; she said to expect some announcements on that front over the next week or two.
She also has to find a place to stay when in the nation's capital. She and her husband, Bruce, are looking at apartments.
This past week was full of meetings between the Senate newbies and veterans, who offered insights into Senate life.
“The best advice so far ... hire a good scheduler, because they control your life,” Fischer said.
One session included a rundown of the often head-scratching ethics rules that lawmakers must follow. Fischer said she learned, for example, that she can't send someone a congratulatory letter on official stationery.
“That will be a minefield, I think, to walk through,” she said.
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