Ben Sasse has always fancied himself as some kind of cutting edge intellectual. That’s one of the reasons why he landed a plum position on the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2019. Sasse would like you to believe that he is some kind of expert on cyber security matters. However, Nebraska (and the country) haven’t seen any benefit from Sasse’s service on this absolutely critical committee during the most serious crisis faced by the U.S. since World War II.
The Politico website has reported that as early as January 24, the Trump Administration held a classified briefing for the full U.S. Senate on the threat posed by the corona virus. Apparently, the briefing was sparsely attended and there was no evidence that Ben Sasse attended the briefing.
The Washington Post has reported by sometime in February, the Department of Health and Human Services delivered a similar briefing on the spreading pandemic. A Trump Administration official who was present at the briefing informed the members of the Senate Intelligence Committee that the corona virus presented a “serious threat.” According to the Post: “This senior official from HHS “didn’t provide specific recommendations, but he said that to get ahead of the virus and blunt its effects, Americans would need to take actions that could disrupt their daily lives, the official said. “It was very alarming.”
After receiving these briefings, prominent Democrats sounded the alarm and demanded immediate action. According to the Politico website: “On Jan. 26, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer called on the Department of Health and Human Services to declare corona virus a public health emergency, which would free up $85 million in funding for federal agencies. “Should the outbreak get worse they’re going to need immediate access to critical federal funds that at present they can’t access.”
The following day, former Vice President Joe Biden wrote an opinion piece in USA Today calling for Congress to declare a national health emergency and to renew funding for “for the nationwide network of hospitals that can isolate and treat people with infectious diseases, and fully fund the Global Health Security Agenda so the world is ready for the next outbreak.”
On February 5, Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) attended what turned out be a fateful meeting at the White House with several senators who informed Administration officials that local governments weren’t ready to deal with the gathering storm. Nevertheless, Trump foolishly rejected a supplemental emergency appropriation for supplies, training and more staff. According to Murphy: HHS Secretary Alex Azar said they “didn’t need emergency funding, that they would be able to handle it within existing appropriations.”
Shortly after this crucial meeting, Murphy posted the following on his (informative) Twitter account: “Just left the Administration briefing on corona virus. Bottom line: they aren’t taking this seriously enough. Notably, no request for ANY emergency funding, which is a big mistake. Local health systems need supplies, training, screening staff etc. And they need it now.”
Senator Murphy unloaded on the Trump Administration in a recent interview with the Washington Post: “That briefing was chilling to me. It was crystal clear that the Administration was not taking this seriously. Administration officials just didn’t think that it was ultimately the federal government’s responsibility to solve the problem. What an awful, horrible catastrophic mistake that was.”
Just what did Ben Sasse do during this crucial period in January and February? Sasse put up a total of 25 posts on his various social media accounts between January and March, and he never warned his constituents about the serious crisis that we faced. Instead, his top priorities were a phony abortion messaging bill and his re-election campaign.
Similarly, a review of articles from the Omaha World Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star about Sasse revealed that he said nothing about the threat posed by the pandemic during this time frame. The articles largely concerned his statements regarding the various stimulus measures that worked their way through the Congress. Moreover, Sasse hasn’t given a media interview for months.
Sasse’s actual legislative actions since the economy has collapsed have been a disgrace and an utter failure. Sasse — along with a handful of other extreme Republican senators — held up one of the stimulus bills for a day because he was of the belief that the unemployment compensation benefits for workers were too generous. (At the same time, Sasse didn’t criticize the generous, no strings attached corporate bailouts.) After the various stimulus bills passed, Nebraska’s junior senator lobbied the Trump Administration behind the scenes to subvert the will of Congress and write regulations to stiff the unemployed.
At the same time, Sasse failed to obtain vital aide for the cities of Omaha and Lincoln. The stimulus bills exempted cities with a population of less than 500,000 people. As a consequence, Omaha and Lincoln received zero stimulus dollars even while they are facing huge budget deficits that could lead to layoffs and cuts in vital services.
Due to his gross incompetence and indifference to his constituents, Sasse has drawn no less than seven Democratic opponents. I would recommend that you get behind one of these candidates and help them throw out Ben Sasse. We must regain control of the Senate and end McConnell’s destructive obstruction. Now let’s get it done!