U.S. Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) has never been a favorite of those riding on the Trump Train, despite the man having one of the most conservative voting records in the Senate. He was #NeverTrump during the general election, and he has been a critic of President Trump’s conduct and rhetoric while being supportive of most of the Administration’s policies and judicial picks (with the exception of tariffs).
Last week, his candor got him into trouble with Trump and party apologists.
Sasse during the confirmation hearings for Judge Brett Kavanaugh gave a much-needed civics primer during his opening statement.
He ultimately blamed Congress for a politicized court, primarily, he says, because Congress is not doing its job and ceding its authority to the executive branch and judicial branch.
He followed up with an op/ed in The Wall Street Journal.
Also, last week in an interview with Hugh Hewitt after The New York Times published an op/ed supposedly written by a “senior official in the Trump Administration. He questioned the motivation of the writer, but said he was not surprised by the complaints:
I don’t understand the morality of why anyone would write the piece, because it seems pretty obvious to me that what it’s going to do is foster more paranoia. I mean, the team at the White House, again, lots of really good people there, but the team at the White House doesn’t work together well. They’re infighting all the time. And that starts at the top. And I think publishing something like this only makes that worse. So I wish whoever it was wouldn’t have done it, but I think that the stuff that’s in it is frankly not surprising to those of us who are trying to help the White House stay on track most days, because this is what you hear from two-thirds of the senior people there.
He then felt like the piece was self-serving and the writer should have come forward:
I think that the ultimate decision to publish feels self-serving, and so for the sake of public trust, I think if somebody wants to talk about the 25th Amendment, they ought to do it in public. I think it’s obvious that what happens now in a world where we don’t really debate very much the actual substance of where the country’s going, I get why someone who might think about publishing it in their own name would know that then, they become the whole story, and it’s where they came from and what grievance they’re supposedly harboring, and what moment they flirted with voting for Bill Clinton in 1992 so they shouldn’t be trusted. And so I think there are arguments for not wanting to do it in your own name, but I ultimately think you know, if you want a White House with more big cause/low ego people working there, and you know that that has to start at the top, the last thing you really would want to do is try to have the President spend the next you know, 72 hours panicked, running around doing an interrogation of everybody.
(I made some similar observations during my podcast last week. The op/ed was not helpful in the slightest.)
He then tweeted the following on Saturday when asked if he considered leaving his political party:
He then followed that up with an interview on Sunday morning after his tweet made national news saying leaving the party is something he considers daily during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union.
“I probably think about it every morning when I wake up and I figure out, am I flying away from Nebraska to go to D.C. this week?” Sasse said. “Are we going to get real stuff done?”
This is not news, and when visiting Iowa last summer. He told the Story County Republicans he said he was happy to identify as a Republican because of what it historically stood for.
“What this party on is really, really special stuff and yet none of us should have that much of our identity invested in a political party because the more important titles that you bear are not Republican,” he said.
He is well known for downplaying politics, in particular, partisan politics. His stance is not a new one, and it is frankly refreshing to hear from an elected official.
His critics called his remarks preening and have his legislative accomplishments.
Erick Erickson tweeted out the following defense.
In reality, he put forth legislation. Since taking office he has sponsored 74 pieces of legislation (primarily amendments) and co-sponsored 242 bills and amendments. Bills he has sponsored include:
- Military Education Savings Accounts of 2018
- Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act (also in 2015)
- Secure Citizenship Act of 2016
- Taxpayers Before Insurers Act
- Winding Down Obamacare Act
He has co-sponsored bills such has:
- Keep Families Together and Enforce the Law Act
- Protect Kids and Parents Act
- Spending Cuts to Expired and Unnecessary Programs Act
- First Amendment Defense Act
- Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act
Could he sponsor more bills? I suppose. Let’s not act as though he has not worked on legislation, he has. If not his bills, then as amendments to existing bills (which, frankly, is the majority of the legislation that gets passed).
What he said about Congress is not something that can be solved with legislation alone. They need to return to being a check on the executive branch regardless of who occupies the White House.
It is not the job of a U.S. Senator to be the President’s cheerleader, to provide cover for bad behavior, excuse irresponsible rhetoric, or advance party politics. His job is to uphold the Constitution, by making good law, blocking bad bills, and exercising checks on balances on the other branches.
We need more people like Ben Sasse in the U.S. Senate.