Since Ben Sasse began his undistinguished tenure in the U.S. Senate, he has postured as some kind of opponent of the current gridlock that has blighted this once proud institution. After his maiden Senate speech in 2015, Sasse received gushing praise from both the national and local media when he correctly pointed that the Senate doesn’t work anymore to solve the problems of the U.S. He criticized what he termed: “bare knuckled politics, “radical tactics,” and the use of Senate rules for “shirts and skins exercises.” Sasse said the Senate should be “reducing polarization” and reformed to solve what he termed “generational problems.”
Sasse rehashed this tired theme in an opinion piece that was published last week in the Wall Street Journal. Nebraska’s junior Senator proposed to break the gridlock and end the dysfunction with a series of kooky proposals: cut the cameras, abolish standing committees, require senators to attend all floor debates, force senators to live in the same dormitory, change all Senate terms to one nonrenewable 12-year term of office and abolish the 17th Amendment.
It’s pretty easy for somebody who is not familiar with Sasse’s record to praise this recent opinion piece. He is certainly correct when he told us that the Senate isn’t solving the long terms problems that the U.S. faces. However, history didn’t begin when Senator Sasse wrote an article last week for Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal.
Sasse’s own record as a U.S. Senator directly contradicts the message in this recent editorial. I can give you one prominent example: Merrick Garland. Sasse joined Mitch McConnell’s unprecedented theft of a U.S. Supreme Court seat in 2016. As a matter of fact, after Trump was sworn in, Sasse ditched the Agriculture Committee for the Judiciary Committee so he could rubber stamp Trump’s extreme judicial nominees.
One major needed reform that Sasse expressly ruled out in his piece was the elimination of the filibuster rule. This was no accident — right wingers have abused the filibuster rule since the 1950s to obstruct progressive reforms that would benefit African-Americans and working families.
Between 2009 and 2017, McConnell abused the filibuster rule in an attempt to destroy Barack Obama’s presidency and sabotage the economy. Already, McConnell and his GOP Senate colleagues are scheming to destroy a Biden presidency. McConnell and Sasse have blocked any additional economic relief for hard pressed working families, states, cities and first responders.
The reality is that the right wing agenda largely consists of deficit funded tax cuts for the wealthy and pro-business judges. The Republicans can pass regressive tax cuts with 51 votes in the Senate using the budget reconciliation rules. Moreover, McConnell and Sasse have already eliminated the filibuster rule for Supreme Court nominees.
In contrast, Democrats can’t use the budget reconciliation rules to pass universal health care, gun safety reform and climate change legislation. Under the current rules, it would take 60 votes to pass most of the Democratic agenda. In other words, it’s virtually impossible for the Democrats to enact their platform.
Sasse’s proposal to eliminate the 17th Amendment and to have state legislatures pick U.S. senators again would make it more likely the GOP would maintain control of the U.S. Senate. Currently, 29 state legislatures are controlled by the GOP, 19 legislatures are controlled by the Democrats and two have split control.
There is nothing bi-partisan or non-partisan about Ben Sasse’s wacky proposals. In reality, they are aimed at maintaining GOP dominance of that body either by perpetuating the GOP majority and/or allowing continued GOP obstruction. Sasse’s proposals also tells me that our junior Senator anticipates a Democratic sweep this fall and he would like to get off to an early start in sabotaging the economy and a Biden presidency.
It is our duty as Nebraska Democrats to point out to the media and other opinion leaders that Sasse’s rhetoric about fixing the Senate is directly contradicted by his actual record. One cannot reconcile the two. We must also inform our fellow citizens about Sasse’s radical vision for the country — a vision not shared by most Nebraskans.
I would recommend to all Nebraskans that they write in Preston Love of Omaha for the U.S. Senate. Preston is a great guy, long time community activist, historian, author and a member of the U.N.O. faculty. Preston would make a great U.S. Senator. All you need is Love! Let’s get it done! On to victory!