Nebraskaâ€™s Republican Candidates For U.S. Senate: Ben Sasse
May 5th, 2014
Omaha, NE –Â A quick introduction, the lights go out and Ben Sasse starts playing a video. The audience is a few dozen Republicans attending the weekly Greater Omaha Pachyderm Luncheon in the back room of a restaurant. Sasseâ€™s high-end video production depicts a diesel truck pulling the U.S. capitol to Nebraska. When it ends, Sasse explains the meaning.[audio:https://kvnonews.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/sasse5_2_14_wp.mp3]
â€œThatâ€™s what the Ninth and Tenth Amendments taught us, is that when there are governance responsibilities, those functions should be delivered to and accountable to the people as much as possible at the state and local level, and thatâ€™s obviously what we mean in our little thought experiment in the film,â€ Sasse told the audience. â€œWeâ€™re not really trying to figure out how to move the architecture of the capitol to Nebraska.â€
Sasse says thereâ€™s a crisis in Washington, caused by Democrats and Republicans who believe Washington is the â€œcenter of the world.â€
â€œWe believe that the federal governmentâ€™s duty is to create a framework for ordered liberty where life is lived in the private sector and in local community,â€ Sasse said.
Working for the federal government in Washington, D.C., is part of the 42-year-old Sasseâ€™s wide-ranging life story. He was born in the small town of Plainview and graduated from high school in Fremont. He then left Nebraska, earning a bachelorâ€™s degree from Harvard, a masterâ€™s from St. Johnâ€™s College in Maryland, and masterâ€™s and doctorate degrees in history from Yale. During and after working on degrees he had positions in Washington for the departments of Justice, Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services, and as chief of staff for Nebraska Rep. Jeff Fortenberry. In consulting or managing roles, heâ€™s spent a lot of his professional career in industries ranging from airlines to manufacturing to health care.
â€œSo most of my career is for-profit companies and not-for-profit organizations that were in bankruptcy or looking at going bankrupt, and Iâ€™ve done a lot of crisis and turnaround projects,â€ Sasse said. â€œI like organizations in crisis and things that need a turnaround, and obviously thereâ€™s no more broken institution in the country right now than the U.S. Congress.â€
One of those self-described turnaround projects brought him back to Nebraska in 2010, when he became president of Midland University in Fremont. â€œMidland was unable to make payroll four out of six months as we arrived, and now weâ€™re one of the fastest growing schools in the Midwest,â€ Sasse said.
Sasse says people first approached him about running for Senate about a year ago, when Sen. Mike Johanns announced he wasnâ€™t seeking re-election. A summer listening tour of Nebraska convinced Sasse to enter the race last fall.
At the GOP Senate debate in Lincoln, Sasse said heâ€™s running because he feels Washington is broken. â€œOur leaders do not respect the Constitution and our freedoms are eroding,â€ Sasse said. â€œOur generation has a moral obligation to leave this country as great and free and opportunity-filled for our kids and grandkids as we were blessed to inherit from our grandparents.â€
Like the other Republicans in Nebraskaâ€™s U.S. Senate race, Sasse describes himself as conservative, is pro-life and wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
â€œMy proposal has four components,â€ Sasse said at the Republican Senate debate in Lincoln. â€œIt doesnâ€™t fit inside a 75-second answer but it does fundamentally fix the tax code, which is bias for lobbyists and special interests against Nebraska farmers, ranchers and small business people because it actually creates portability across job and geographic change and then it tries to stabilize the entitlement programs by devolving Medicaid back to Lincoln from Washingtonâ€™s one-size-fits-all proposals.â€
Sasse opposes amnesty and a pathway to citizenship for immigrants illegally in the United States, and says the U.S. military needs to be able to fight two large scale wars at the same time. â€œIn that world where we make sufficient investments, the world is a safer place and the use of force is actually much less likely or needed,â€ Sasse said. â€œRight now, though, weâ€™ve done the opposite. Weâ€™ve made pledges that we donâ€™t intend to keep and weâ€™ve limited our future investments in ways that make us weaker and therefore the world less stable.â€
Sasse says he would reduce the national debt and balance the budget by cutting spending. â€œWeâ€™re on a pathway toward a Greek-style debt crisis,â€ Sasse said, â€œand health entitlements are the single largest place where Washington has just made-up hokey math that canâ€™t possibly work.â€
In a time when Republican candidates often reference Ronald Reagan as a model conservative from the past, Sasse talks about the legacy of a different Republican from that era, former New York Congressman Jack Kemp.
â€œThe vision of conservatism that he articulated, which was based on opportunity, which was based on racial inclusiveness and fighting really hard to build the future of America, that had every family and every community wanting to grow and aspire and build more together,â€ Sasse said. â€œBut you mostly canâ€™t do that by the federal government handing out money and creating dependency. I think we have to move to a world where weâ€™re talking a lot more about earned success and the way that works in our local communities and a lot less about learned dependency.â€
Not long ago Republicans at the Greater Omaha Pachyderm Luncheon might not have known much, if anything, about Ben Sasse and his politics. Now Sasse hopes theyâ€™ll remember him when they vote on May 13.
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