|United States Senator
January 3, 2015
Serving with Deb Fischer
|Preceded by||Mike Johanns|
|Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation|
December 2007 – January 2009
|President||George W. Bush|
|Preceded by||Michael O'Grady|
|Succeeded by||Sherry Glied|
|Born||Benjamin Eric Sasse
February 22, 1972
Plainview, Nebraska, U.S.
|Education||Harvard University (BA)
St. John's College, Maryland
Yale University (MA, MPhil, PhD)
Sasse earned a doctorate in American History from Yale University. He taught at the University of Texas and served as an assistant secretary in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. In 2010, he was named president of Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska.
Sasse was born on February 22, 1972, in Plainview, Nebraska, the son of Gary Lynn Sasse, a high-school teacher and football coach, and Linda Sasse. He graduated from Fremont Senior High School, Fremont, Nebraska in 1990, where he was valedictorian.
Sasse graduated from Harvard University, in 1994, with a bachelor's degree in government. He also studied at the University of Oxford, during the fall of 1992, on a junior year abroad program. He graduated from St. John’s College, in 1998, with a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies. He also obtained a Master of Arts, Master of Philosophy and Ph.D, all in history, from Yale University, in 2004. His dissertation, The Anti-Madalyn Majority: Secular Left, Religious Right, and the Rise of Reagan's America, won the Theron Rockwell Field and George Washington Egleston Prizes.
From September 1994 to November 1995, Sasse worked as an associate consultant at the management consulting firm Boston Consulting Group. For the next year, Sasse served as consultant/executive director for the Christians United For Reformation (CURE). During his tenure, CURE merged with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE), and Sasse became executive director of ACE in Anaheim, California.
From January 2004 to January 2005, Sasse served as chief of staff for the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Legal Policy in Washington, D.C. and as a part-time assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin by commuting to Austin to teach. Sasse left the Department of Justice in 2005 to serve as chief of staff to representative Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebr.) from January 2005 to July 2005.
Sasse then advised the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, D.C., on national security issues from July 2005 to September 2005 as a consultant. Sasse moved to Austin, Texas, to resume his professorship full-time from September 2005 to December 2006.
From December 2006 to December 2007, Sasse served as counselor to the secretary at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in Washington, D.C., where he advised the secretary on a broad spectrum of health policy issues, from healthcare access to food safety and security.
In July 2007, Sasse was nominated by President George W. Bush to the post of assistant secretary for planning and evaluation in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. His appointment was confirmed by the Senate in December 2007 and served until the end of the Bush administration, in January 2009. During his tenure at HHS, Sasse took an unpaid leave from the University of Texas.
During 2009, Sasse was advising private equity clients and health care investors and teaching at the University of Texas. In October 2009, he officially joined the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs’ Center for Politics and Governance as a fellow, before being appointed president of Midland University.
Sasse was announced as the 15th president of Midland University in October 2009. At the age of 37, he became one of the youngest chief executives in American higher education when he took over leadership of the 128-year-old institution in the spring of 2010. Sasse's grandfather, Elmer Sasse, worked for Midland for 33 years, mainly as vice president of finance. The school was experiencing financial and academic difficulties; Sasse is credited with "turn(ing) it around," rebranding "Midland Lutheran College" as Midland University, instituting new policies (including spot quizzes and class attendance), and "prodigious fundraising."
Sasse was officially installed as president on December 10, 2010. When he was appointed, enrollment was at a historic low and the college was "on the verge of bankruptcy." During his tenure as president, enrollment grew from 590 to 1,300 students. When nearby Dana College was forced to close, Sasse managed to hire much of the faculty and enable most of the students to transfer to Midland.
When Sasse announced his intention to run for U.S. Senate, he offered to resign his post at Midland. Instead, the Board asked him to stay at Midland under a partial leave of absence; in October 2013, his employment contract was amended to reduce his remuneration. Sasse stepped down as president of Midland in January 2015.
In October 2013, Sasse officially announced his candidacy for the United States Senate seat occupied by Republican Mike Johanns, who announced that he would not be running for re-election in 2014. As of October 2013, his fundraising total of nearly $815,000 from individual donors in his first quarter broke Nebraska's previous record of $526,000 from individual donors, set in 2007 by Mike Johanns while he was the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.
In announcing his Senate candidacy, Sasse expressed strong opposition to the Affordable Care Act (ACA, a.k.a. "Obamacare"), describing himself as "the anti-Obamacare candidate", later declaring that "[i]f it lives, America as we know it will die." Sasse's campaign website indicated that he was pro-life, stating "even one abortion is too many". The website did not refer explicitly to same-sex marriage, but states, "Ben believes marriage is between one man & one woman..."
Primary opponent Shane Osborn questioned the depth of Sasse's opposition to the ACA, publicizing articles and speeches delivered by Sasse during and after the passage of the measure through Congress; according to the Omaha World-Herald, "Osborn's campaign appears intent on questioning whether Sasse is a true conservative." The Osborn campaign cited, among other pieces, a 2009 Bloomberg Businessweek column entitled "Health-Care Reform: The Rush to Pass a Bad Bill" stating that "There's an emerging consensus that this [an individual mandate] might be a good idea", and a 2010 speech in which Sasse predicted that Republicans would probably lack the votes to repeal the ACA, stating that "a middle class entitlement has never been repealed", and opining that Republicans had failed to offer a viable alternative, preferring to stage "symbolic repeal votes". Sasse's response to the Osborn campaign's assertions was that in his articles and speeches, he was describing the political landscape rather than giving his own opinions on the merits of the ACA's provisions; to a World-Herald reporter, he declared "I have never changed my position on thinking Obamacare is a bad idea".
On May 13, 2014, Sasse won 92 of 93 counties and secured the Republican nomination with 109,829 votes, or 49.4% of all votes cast; banker Sid Dinsdale came in second, with 49,829 votes (22.4%), followed by former state treasurer Shane Osborn, with 46,850 votes (21.1%).
Sasse assumed office as a United States senator on January 3, 2015. He was officially sworn in when the 114th Congress convened on January 6, 2015.
In 2016, Sasse was the only senator from either party to vote against the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which was intended to address abuse of heroin and opioid drugs by providing funds to the states for treatment and prevention programs and by making the anti-overdose drug naloxone more widely available to first responders and law enforcement agencies. Sasse stated that he was "distressed by opioid abuse", but questioned whether drug treatment should be addressed at the federal level.
2016 presidential election
In early 2016, while both parties' presidential primary election seasons were in progress, Sasse announced that he would not support Republican front-runner Donald Trump should Trump become the party's candidate; he was the first sitting senator to make such an announcement. Sasse questioned Trump's commitment to the U.S. Constitution, in particular accusing him of attacking the First Amendment; he stated that Trump had refused to condemn the Ku Klux Klan; and he suggested that Trump "thinks he's running for King". He stated that if Trump won the party's nomination, then he would vote neither for him nor for Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton, but would probably "look for some third candidate—a conservative option, a Constitutionalist". According to a Sasse spokesman, he did not say that he would necessarily leave the party if Trump was nominated.
Trump, asked about Sasse's third-party suggestion, replied, "That would be the work of a loser." Several Nebraska Republican politicians, among them state senators Bob Krist and Beau McCoy and U.S. senator Deb Fischer, took exception to Sasse's statements: Krist described Sasse's comments as "very immature" and declared that Sasse should "quietly and in a statesman-like manner allow the system to work out and provide the leadership that needs to be provided"; Fischer stated that a third-party alternative to Trump would essentially guarantee a Clinton victory.
Sasse has been appointed to serve on the following committees in the 115th Congress:
- Committee on Armed Services
- Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs
- Joint Economic Committee
- Committee on the Judiciary
In Sasse's Senate run in 2014, he received an "AQ" rating from the National Rifle Association (NRA). According to the NRA's press release, the rating was the most favorable that could be given to a candidate who had no voting record on gun-related issues. The NRA endorsed Sasse in the race.
In the Senate, Sasse continued to support repeal of the ACA. In 2017, with Republicans unable to develop a repeal-and-replace plan that could secure a majority in the Senate, Sasse proposed an immediate repeal with a one-year delay in implementation, and called on the Senate to then give up its August recess to allow it to work on a replacement measure.
Sasse was raised a Lutheran and baptized in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod. He later became an elder in the United Reformed Churches in North America, and served on the board of trustees for Westminster Seminary California. He is currently a member at Grace Church, a Presbyterian church in Fremont.
- Walton, Don. "Ben Sasse: Getting to know you". Lincoln Journal Star. June 10, 2013. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
- "National election results 2014". Washington Post. Retrieved November 9, 2014.
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- Sasse, Benjamin, "Biographical Information" Appendix to Hearing re Nomination of Dr. Benjamin Sasse, pp. 78–84. U.S. House. Committee on the Finance. Washington: Government Printing Office; retrieved January 11, 2014.
- Roth, Zachary. "Ben Sasse, GOP senator, leads #NeverTrump movement". MSNBC. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
- "Theron Rockwell Field and the John Addison Porter prize competitions". Yale University. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- "George Washington Egleston (1901)". Yale University. Retrieved July 2, 2017.
- "Dissertations By Year", Yale.edu; retrieved January 11, 2014.
- Maruina, Todd, "Conference of Top Evangelical Leaders Calls Evangelical Movement to Repentance for Liberal Theological Drifts". United Reformed News Service, May 21, 2006; retrieved January 12, 2014.
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- "Report on the Activities of the Committee on Finance During the 110th Congress". Committee Report 13 of 50, Senate Report 111-013. United States Senate; retrieved January 12, 2014.
- K. Weems & B. Sasse, "Is Government Health Insurance Cheap?", Wall Street Journal; retrieved January 11, 2014.
- Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) & Benjamin Sasse, "Do Healthcare Reformers Fear A Reading Public?", Forbes.com; retrieved January 11, 2011.
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- Ben Sasse (December 3, 2013). "Ben Sasse: I'm running to repeal the Obamacare worldview". Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved October 7, 2013.
- "Defending the Unborn", Sasse for Nebraska Archived March 23, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.; archived from the original Archived April 18, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.
- "Issues": Sasse for Nebraska; retrieved October 19, 2014. archived October 17, 2014 at archive.org
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- "Official Report of the Board of State Canvassers of the State of Nebraska: General Election, November 4, 2014." Nebraska Secretary of State. Retrieved January 8, 2015. Archived 2015-01-08 at Wayback Machine.
- Howell, Tom (March 10, 2016). "Senate overwhelmingly approves bill to fight deadly opioid, heroin epidemic". The Washington Times. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
- Arkin, James (March 10, 2016). "Senate Passes Bill Addressing Heroin, Opioid Crisis". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved March 12, 2016.
- Levy, Gabrielle. "Republicans Vow to Oppose Trump in November". U.S. News & World Report. February 29, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
- Sasse, Ben. "An open letter to Trump supporters". Facebook, February 28, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
- Morton, Joseph. "Ben Sasse: If GOP embraces politics of Donald Trump, 'I'm out'". Omaha World-Herald. March 2, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016.
- Daly, Matthew. "Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse is again tangling with Donald Trump and his supporters". U.S. News & World Report. March 4, 2016. Retrieved March 4, 2016. Two-page article; Krist's comments are on first page, Fischer's on second.
- "Senate GOP Releases Committee Assignments for the 115th Congress", senate.gov; retrieved January 10, 2017.
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- Biography at the Biographical Directory of the United States Congress
- U.S. Senator Ben Sasse official U.S. Senate site
- Ben Sasse at Curlie (based on DMOZ)
- Appearances on C-SPAN
|President of Midland University
|Party political offices|
|Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Nebraska
|U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Nebraska
Served alongside: Deb Fischer
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Senators by seniority
|114th||Senate: D. Fischer • B. Sasse||House: J. Fortenberry • A. Smith • B. Ashford|
|115th||Senate: D. Fischer • B. Sasse||House: J. Fortenberry • A. Smith • D. Bacon|