Nebraska Senator Deb Fischer says she will not support the nomination of former senator and fellow Republican Chuck Hagel to be Secretary of Defense.
Fischer says she says appreciate’s Hagel’s service as an infantryman in Vietnam and as a United States senator, but that after meeting with him privately and witnessing what she calls his “confusing and contradictory testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee” confirmation hearing, she can’t support his nomination.
Citing what she calls some of his “controversial views” on Iran and Israel, she says Hagel changed changed these positions and argued before the committee that he now supports U.S. efforts to actively prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear capabilities.
Fischer says she’s even more troubled by Hagel’s insistence on holding positions that history has proven wrong, saying that “leadership requires the humility to admit being wrong.
She also says the Secretary of Defense needs organizational and budgetary expertise to effectively manage the world’s largest bureaucracy, which she says Hagel lacks.
Although he is a Republican, Hagel campaigned against Fischer and for Democrat Bob Kerrey during the closing weeks of last November’s election…where Fischer easily defeated Kerrey.
A central Nebraska woman who pleaded no contest to charges in 3 counties for prostituting her 7- and 14-year-old daughters has been given up to 20 more years in prison.
The Associated Press is not using her name to protect the identity of the girls. The AP does not usually identify the victims of sex crimes.
The Hastings Tribune says the 36-year-old woman was sentenced earlier this week in Furnas County District Court to 12 to 20 years for conspiracy to commit a felony.
She had already had been sentenced in Buffalo County to 80 to 90 years in prison after pleading no contest to conspiracy to commit child sexual assault and of two felony counts of child pornography possession. No contest pleas are treated as guilty pleas for sentencing.
The woman is still awaiting sentencing in Franklin County, where she has pleaded no contest to nine more similar felony counts
A Hot Springs man has pleaded guilty to a counterfeiting charge after being caught trying to pass phony $20 bills in Rapid City.
35-year-old Jeffrey Walsh was accused of using the bogus bills at four stores last August. U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson says Walsh faces up to 20 years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine when he is sentenced on June 7.
Rapid City police say they have busted a major local drug trafficking and money counterfeiting operation. Four people have been arrested on drug charges, with charges related to the alleged counterfeiting operation pending.
The investigation began with the search of vehicle that was pulled over early Monday and ended with the searches of two homes, a motel room and a tattoo parlor.
Authorities say they found traces of cocaine during the search of the vehicle, which led to search warrants that led to more search warrants.
Officers confiscated $56,000 in cash, more than a dozen rifles and handguns, counterfeit money and the equipment used to make it, and illegal drugs including methamphetamine, cocaine and marijuana.
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — The Rapid City Council has voted to draft a policy regarding prayer after a nonprofit group asked the council to end its practice of beginning meetings with an invocation.
The Freedom From Religion Foundation advocates the separation of church and state and says a compromise would be for the council to hold a moment of silence before meetings rather than a prayer. City leaders say they don’t have any plans to change their tradition.
The council on Monday night decided to have staff draft a policy on the matter that would help the city defend itself in court. The Freedom From Religion Foundation has said it plans to become involved in lawsuits on the issue of prayer at public meetings, though it has not said it will sue Rapid City.
RAPID CITY, S.D. (AP) — Four Rapid City Council members and several city residents are calling for Councilman Bill Clayton to step down after remarks some said were racist.
Clayton was accused of making racist comments to a black TV reporter last August. He publicly apologized last month for the controversy.
The Rapid City Journal reports the council heard Clayton’s full testimony behind closed doors in December and took no action against him. The calls during Monday night’s council meeting for Clayton to resign came after former council member Malcolm Chapman criticized the council for not taking action against Clayton.
Clayton defended himself, saying news coverage of the incident has been inaccurate and that “this is the ugly side of politics.”
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham says Chuck Hagel “seems clueless” on U.S. policy toward Iran and he’s urging the Obama administration to reconsider its defense secretary nominee.
In a statement Tuesday, the South Carolina lawmaker stopped short of saying he would filibuster the choice if the president pushes forward as expected. No Democrat has come out in opposition to Hagel, two Republican senators back him and several others, including Sen. John McCain, say they wouldn’t support a filibuster.
Graham is a member of the Armed Services Committee, which could vote as early as Thursday on the nomination of Hagel, the former two-term Republican senator from Nebraska.
Hagel stumbled last week at his confirmation hearing on whether the U.S. policy toward Iran is containment, then corrected himself.
A bill from Scottsbluff State Senator John Harms requiring drivers older than age 80 to pass a brain function test to ensure they’re physically and mentally capable of driving drew some 2 hours of testimony at a hearing Tuesday before the Legislature’s Transportation and Telecommunications Committee.
Harms told the committee he introduced the bill in light of U.S. Census Bureau predictions of more older drivers being on the road over the next 20 years…with the number of 80-plus drivers jumping from 21,000 to 53,000 by 2030, and AARP Nebraska estimating that the state will have some 130,000 residents over 80 by 2035.
Harms said other states already have extra requirements for elderly people to renew their licenses, although he believes Nebraska would be the first state to require a cognitive test. He also said he would be open to the bill being held over to next year to allow more study between sessions.
Bonnie Dobbs of the University of Alberta, a leading researcher on medically-impaired driving, told the panel that Nebraska doesn’t have an older driver problem, it has a medically-impaired driver problem.
Dobbs said almost 25% of Americans between 80 and 89 suffer from some type of dementia, so testing to uncover such problems start at 80 makes sense…but she also said starting them a few years earlier wasn’t a bad idea.
She pointed to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that show that nationally, fatal crash rates start increasing for drivers after they turn 75 and rise significantly after age 80
Only 2 people testified against the bill. One was 76-year-old Jack Sample of Grand Island, a retired state driver’s license examiner.
Sample said the bill was prejudiced against old people and that the worst drivers he saw as a license examiner came in all ages. He also said that a relative or family doctor should decide when it’s time to take away the keys of an older driver, not a license examiner.
Governor Dave Heineman says he’s already getting suggestions from the public about possible successors to Lt Governor Rick Sheehy…who resigned Saturday amid a scandal over using his state cell phone to make some 2,000 late night personal calls to women who weren’t his wife.
Heineman won’t release any of the names that have been given to him because he’s not sure if those individuals know they’ve been suggested, and because state law won’t allow him to pick a current member of the legislature while the Unicameral is in session.
Sheehy had been the overwhelming favorite in next year’s governor race…when Heineman is term-limited. The election will play a role in his selection for Lt Governor because Heineman says it wouldn’t be fair to pick someone who would be running and give them “a leg up” in the election.
Heineman doesn’t have any set number of applicants or finalists he will consider, but expects the number to round 12-to-15 initially with one or two that he’ll interview in depth before making his choice.
Heineman doesn’t know how long it will take him to do that, but indicates it won’t be before next month at the earliest…especially since he needs to focus attention right now on testifying before the legislature’s Revenue Committee on his tax reform plan this Thursday.
Although Heineman is looking for a “caretaker” in terms of not running for office next year, he says his choice won’t be a caretaker when it comes to filling the job and serving the people of Nebraska. He expects the person to be active in all roles of the job including head of Homeland Security for the state and helping him push tax reform.
Should something happen to Heineman before he picks Sheehy’s successor, Speaker of the Legislature Greg Adams of York would become governor.
Nebraska senior Senator Mike Johanns says he will back former Nebraska senator Chuck Hagel as the next Secretary of Defense. Johanns told the Lincoln Journal-Star and the Omaha World-Herald over the weekend that Hagel earned his endorsement after last week’s confirmation hearing and after meeting with him.
Some Republican senators have said they will vote against confirming Hagel because he’s not tough enough on Iran or sufficiently supportive of Israel, but Johanns says he believes Hagel will be a strong supporter of Israel and other allies of the U.S. and will be firm with America’s enemies.
Johanns and Hagel are long-time political colleagues. Hagel was already a senator when he campaigned with Hagel on his successful run for governor in 1998, and Johanns took Hagel’s when he didn’t seek reelection in 2008.
Johanns joins Thad Cochran of Mississippi as the only Republicans to publicly endorse Hagel’s nomination to run the Pentagon. Democrats hold the majority in the Senate, and none has voiced opposition to Hagel’s appointment.