The National Journal piqued my interest in a freshman senator from the great state of Nebraska named Ben Sasse. Let me actually restate that, it “re-piqued” my interest because I do know who Ben Sasse is. For a quick intro Sasse is a young senator who replaced Mike Johanns last year winning the tea party’s only real victory in the 2014 midterm Senate primaries. He’s something of a renaissance man who in his 43 years has been a lawyer, professor, assistant HHS secretary and college president before running and winning a seat in the US Senate. Here is a pretty dazzling profile from January 2014’s National Review.
So why is a Virginia blogger talking about a junior Nebraska senator? Well, as the NJ article points out Sasse is notable for actually trying to make the Senate functionally work. Right now there are two kinds of senators. The first are senators who think they can be president one day and the second are senators who want to be lifers who can become millionaires off of working for special interests groups who will then hire their spouses. That is probably too simplistic but i doubt it is far off. Sasse is a strange bird because he actually wants to be a senator who makes the Senate work.
One of the great political crimes of the baby boomer generation is the massive expansion of near-unchecked executive power combined with a complete surrender of Congressional oversight on matters of war and peace. Our fights are now over social issues while behind our backs Congress continues to surrender to whatever the president wants. Take a look at this speech from Ben Sasse:
Imagine President Trump has been propelled into the White House. … He signs an executive order to turn the Peace Corps into stone masons and build a wall. He shutters the Department of Education and, by executive order, turns the Department of the Interior into the classiest oil company the world has ever known.
So what happens next? … After having raged against a supposedly lawless president, [would Republicans] suddenly find that they are actually OK with a strongman president, so long as he’s wearing the same color jersey that they are? He may be a lawless sonuvagun but, some would say, he’s our lawless sonuvagun. Would the ends justify the means?
I think the weakness of the Congress is not just undesirable, but is actually a dangerous thing for America. … I don’t think this because I am a Republican and the current occupant of the White House is a Democrat. In fact, I think we need to have this debate now precisely because we don’t know who is going to control the White House next.
I think it, rather, because I have taken an oath of office to the Constitution; and I’ll still hold this same view when a Republican President next tries to reach beyond his or her constitutional powers.
This is something I’ve talked about on my old Mason Conservative blog, the expansion of near unchecked political power of the President. Our system was not set up for a single man or woman elected by an electoral college to single-handedly control every aspect of our political life. And while we love to bash presidents when it’s the other party for taking it too far, we rarely bat an eye when it is one of our own expanding government and restricting liberty further. Sasse plans to sit in the Senate and challenge senators who give bloviating speeches for C-SPAN that they assumed will be unchallenged. Sasse wants the Senate to work, meaning it would actually be a deliberative body where senators actually debate each other rather than give a long speech and immediately leave the floor to go make some fundraising calls.
Perhaps Sasse is running towards windmills. But it was interesting to watch the British Parliament debate Syrian bombing for 9 hours. The United States, the world’s cradle of democracy? Yeah … not so much. For everyone, let’s hope that Ben Sasse is somehow successful because right now Congress is a place where everything is done at the last minute in Omnibus bills and your liberty and security are trashed. Nothing is deliberated anymore, the requests of presidents are given a blank check by his party and automatically opposed by the opposing party regardless of details. Congress doesn’t work and because of that we turn to people like Donald Trump who have never been apart of the process because we are just dying for someone to stand up to this.
Good luck Ben Sasse, you’ll need it.