Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) is a constitutional conservative from Nebraska. He became a figure of some controversy in the recent election cycle when he took a visible stand against Donald Trump’s nomination/candidacy. Sadly, this has painted Senator Sasse as something of a turncoat with some voters. I say sadly because other than Utah’s Mike Lee, no Senator has had a more conservative voting record over the last two years (Sasse holds a Heritage Action Score of 97%, tied with Ted Cruz and ahead of Rand Paul).
Now with the election over Sasse is being sought out by voters and the media alike, who both wonder how he will move forward under a Trump presidency. The Senator decided to respond with an op-ed in the Omaha World Herald, where he explained that he was “rooting” for the president-elect and praying that God would grant him wisdom. However, this didn’t mean that Sasse’s concerns about Trump’s policy ideas had been allayed simply because he’d been elected…
Americans sent an unmistakable message Tuesday: Washington is broken and needs disruption. I hear that and agree.
In recent days, Nebraskans who voted for Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton, or none of the above, have all asked me this question: “Now what? For over a year, you were concerned about Donald Trump’s character and about whether he recognizes the Constitution’s limits on presidential power. So are you going to oppose him now, or will you get on the Trump train?”
I get why folks are asking but, humbly, this shouldn’t be an either-or question.
If you voted for our president-elect, you should not now become an uncritical follower. And if you voted against Mr. Trump, you should not now be a knee-jerk critic. (As has been reported, I voted for Mike Pence on my presidential ballot.)
Now that the people have spoken, every American has two patriotic duties regarding our president-elect and the policy agenda he will outline:
First, we root for him, and especially for his steady hand as commander in chief. We pray that God grants him wisdom and discernment in his new calling. (My family has prayed for him for weeks at our breakfast table and will do so every morning.)
Second, even as we hope for his personal effectiveness and success, we should all still argue for principles we believe in. In the American system, the vast majority of policy is to be made by the people’s legislative representatives — not by the executive branch or by unelected judges. And thus the Congress needs to hear from the people on the issues…
Sasse also explains that he has some excitement for what the next session of Congress holds. The opportunity to work with majorities in both chambers of Congress and a Republican in the executive branch, is enough to make any elected official buoyant. However, Trump is far from perfect and there are places where the GOP will have to stand firm against his more moderate/liberal tendencies (on trade, the 1st Amendment, and social issues perhaps).
Senators should not be reflexive antagonists. Nor should senators go along to get along. Rather, I’m there to do what Nebraskans hired me to do: Uphold my oath to defend the Constitution regardless of partisan politics, hear and represent their concerns in Washington, fight for limited government and for the limitless potential of every American and look for big solutions that create more opportunity for all.
I am going to be looking for places where we share common ground with the president. Yes, there will also be times when Congress and the White House disagree — that is part of our system. That’s why the founders created different branches of government.
Sasse’s entire op-ed is well considered and meticulously crafted in an effort to mend fences while also signaling the idea that Sasse has no intention of voting against his principles. I hope that over the next few years Sasse can mend enough relationships in Nebraska and Washington, D.C. that he won’t be primaried when he comes up for reelection. We need more conservatives who vote their conscience in D.C., not less.