Nebraska’s Congressional Republicans have long been very conservative and responsive to the demands of their party bosses and the out of state special interests who fund their campaigns. Moreover, since the rise of the Tea Party in 2009, those same Nebraska Republicans have generally given into the demands of this group and done things such as vote for the misguided 2013 government shutdown.
What is truly new and different is Ben Sasse’s descent into sheer radicalism. Some of the positions he took during campaign 2014 and some of the votes he has made this year can certainly lead a fair observer to draw the conclusion that Sasse isn’t just an ordinary, garden variety right wing Republican. He is a radical and an extremist.
We began to see some hints of Sasse’s radicalism during the 2013-14 campaign cycle. When Sasse announced his Senate bid in early October 2013, he made the silly prediction that: “If the Affordable Care Act survives, America will cease to exist.” Since Mr. Sasse made that ridiculous prognostication, the U.S. economy has created an average of 237,000 new jobs every month. This is the best job growth in the U.S. since the economic boom during the second term of the Clinton Administration.
Sasse doubled down on his fierce opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), when he came out against ending the harmful government shutdown aimed at repealing the ACA and cancelling millions of insurance policies. (The GOP government shutdown cost the economy $24 billion and 120,000 jobs.) Sasse told the Omaha World Herald that he would have voted against the compromise funding bill that reopened the government. In other words, if Sasse had gotten his way, the government would still be shutdown or 17 million Americans would have been deprived of health insurance coverage.
During the 2014 primary cycle, Sasse was endorsed by some of the most extreme and contentious Republicans. Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin and Senator Ted Cruz both provided Sasse with crucial endorsements before the primary. Palin is known for – among other things – perpetrating the lie that the ACA contained death panels. This allegation by Palin was deemed by the non-partisan fact checker Politifact.com to be the “lie of the year” in 2009.
Cruz’s support of Sasse’s Senate bid was equally troubling. It was Senator Cruz who convinced the radicals in the House of Representatives to shut down the government in 2013 over the ACA. Moreover, Cruz once said: “I don’t think what Washington needs is more compromise.”
Shortly after his inauguration as a U.S. Senator, Sasse began to demonstrate that he shares Cruz’s disdain for compromise. As early as March, Sasse joined his fellow Nebraska Republicans in voting to shutdown the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) during a time of war and when the U.S. was being threatened by terrorist attacks. This was a deeply irresponsible vote because counter-terrorism experts contended that a shutdown of DHS would result in a slower and weaker response to a terrorist attack – if one were to occur.
Shortly upon the heels of Sasse’s vote to weaken the U.S. response to terrorism, Nebraska’s junior Senator joined Deb Fischer and 45 other Senate Republicans in writing a letter directly to Iran’s Mullahs in an attempt to sabotage the efforts of the U.S. and five other world powers to negotiate an agreement placing limits on Iran’s nuclear program. If Sasse had succeeded in this attempt, the international sanctions regime against Iran would have collapsed and it would have accelerated Iran’s quest to develop a nuclear weapon. Moreover, this kind of result would’ve made war with Iran all but inevitable.
Sasse isn’t just a threat to stability in the Middle East, he also poses a threat to the ability of Nebraska’s senior citizens to see their doctors. This is because in April Sasse voted against the Medicare doctor fix – which passed the Senate by a 92-8 margin. This bill passed less than three hours before federal officials would have reduced payments to health-care providers by 21%. If that had occurred, many doctors and health care providers would’ve refused to treat senior citizens. Moreover, the passage of this legislation was hailed by members of Congress in both parties as a bi-partisan triumph. Yet Sasse rejected this important compromise and sided with some of the most extreme members of the U.S. Senate including Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
Sasse hasn’t only opposed health care for senior citizens, he has even voted against health care for our veterans. Just last month, Sasse voted with 3 other extreme Senators against a bill that would have kept Veterans’ hospitals open. The bill to provide health care to our veterans passed by a 91-4 margin. Even Senator Fischer voted for it. The Veterans Administration had indicated that it might have to start closing hospitals if Congress had refused to pass this bill. Despite the high stakes involved in this legislation, Sasse voted to close down Veterans’ hospitals. The Omaha World Herald reported that a “Sasse spokesman declined comment on what the senator would have preferred Congress to do.”
It is evident that Ben Sasse is a radical and doesn’t share Nebraska values. He has rejected compromise and aligned himself with the most extreme members of the Republican Party. These extremists that Sasse associates with reject the Progressive accomplishments of the 20th century. These radicals are willing to blow up Washington, D.C, to achieve their goals of repealing Social Security, Medicare and even veterans’ health programs.
We as Democrats need to spread the word that Ben Sasse simply isn’t one of us. He is a dangerous extremist who will resort to just about any tactic to achieve his ends. What makes him especially dangerous is that he comes across as a pleasant and reasonable person. Don’t be fooled. And don’t let your friends and neighbors be fooled either. Sasse is a very different kind of Republican. And that’s not good.