Nebraska’s Ben Sasse looking forward to shaping ‘future of work’ at Florida | Nebraska Examiner
LINCOLN — Ben Sasse told Nebraska residents when he first ran for office in 2013 that he would not be a Senate spouse. But the two-year-old US senator did not expect to leave so soon, he said on Wednesday.
The former president of Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska, said he was intrigued when the University of Florida began campaigning for him for its presidency.
He figured he might one day leave the Senate to run a private equity firm that invests in technology that he and others studying the “future of work” expect to be the next industrial could lead revolution.
But Florida, he said, offered him an opportunity to steer the university and young people through the major disruptions to the workplace from artificial intelligence and related technologies.
Today’s students are less likely than previous generations to work in the same sectors they start their careers in, and adults need to prepare them to adapt to this change.
“We will have an opportunity to make some of this disruption happen… only on the platform of an excellent institution,” Sasse said. “So in the end it was too good an opportunity to say no.”
Another factor was changing family dynamics. Sasse’s wife, Melissa, has spent about 16 years recovering from a brain aneurysm. She has been able to regain quality of life and raise her children over time, he said.
However, over the past four years, Sasse said, she has begun to have more consistent seizures. When Melissa previously had seizures and needed time to recover, her two daughters were of great help taking care of her and her younger brother.
However, you are in college now. So the idea of a job that would keep Sasse closer to home and more readily available to help was appealing, he said.
“If these bouts happen now … it’s critically leading to a few days of real turbulence to try and get your bearings,” he said. “Being able to consolidate — that the family … will be sitting around the same dining table most evenings — is an important variable that we also considered.”
Advice for successors
Governor-elect Jim Pillen is expected to take Sasse’s seat this month. Many political observers expect him to pick his top political patron, acting governor Pete Ricketts.
Sasse, who has just completed the second year of his second term, is resigning effective January 8. He said he hopes his successor will learn to look beyond the Washington, DC show.
Too many people in the Senate, he said, are more concerned about how they and their actions appear on cable news, rather than focusing on the big goals that can make a difference.
“I think the people who are doing this job well are the people who are trying to think 10 and 15 years ahead of what the country needs,” he said. “It turns out that Nebraskans seem pretty content with taking a longer-term perspective, and they don’t really want to react in the short-term.”
It’s easy to get distracted by the 50 or 250 angry calls he gets after a vote or declaration, Sasse said, but he said he’s learned over time that the calls often came from the same people.
He said it’s important to focus work on the 2 million Nebrascans, most of whom don’t watch the news 24/7. He wants his successor to know that the loudest voices do not represent the general public.
“There’s almost nobody who really looks at political infotainment,” Sasse said. “But the people who serve here … act like there’s a huge audience.”
Americans, he said, “want to get to a place where we won’t let the loudest, angriest people have such a disproportionate voice.”
The Sasse record
Sasse said during his farewell address to the Senate on Tuesday that the Senate must play its traditional role as the cooling center for the passions of the day, which are mirrored by the House of Representatives. He pointed to the rare multi-vote battle this week for Speaker of the House.
On Wednesday he admitted having a shorter list than some of the legislative achievements. He said he is most proud of his work behind closed doors on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
He said he could not discuss some of his key contributions to national defense legislation because they were contained in parts of the National Defense Authorization Act that were not made public.
He promoted his legislation that focuses government agencies and the private sector on the threats posed by cyberattacks on computers, devices, networks, systems, power grids and more.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, not a fan of Sasse, this week praised him for his work in focussing Congress and the country on the threat posed by the Chinese Communist leadership.
Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, worked with McConnell to help bring a record number of conservative judges to the federal courts, including overturning the US Supreme Court.
Sasse, who opposes abortion, faced some statements in Florida that he made in support of the more conservative Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision overturning Roe v. Wade had given up.
He proposed federal legislation designed to protect babies who survive attempted abortions. He said he remains hopeful that younger generations will take a stand against abortion.
When he ran for office in 2013, Sasse told Nebraska residents he would be involved in “the future of war,” “the future of work,” and World War IStModification. He said he didn’t get what he wanted during his time in Congress, including changes to Obamacare.
Congress was unwilling to deal with big issues like health care reform.
Trump and GOP base
Sasse secured the most votes of any Nebrascan during his 2020 race, surpassing former President Donald Trump nationally. He was also frequently censored by members of his own party, due to his testy relationship with Trump and Trump supporters.
Sasse has openly criticized what he has called personal excesses on the part of Trump, including his failure to understand the power of his words to undermine support for democratic norms.
Sasse was one of seven GOP senators who voted to convict Trump after his second impeachment trial after supporters of the president stormed the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.
“There were borough meetings of a dozen people and they split two to one, blame me for saying that, you know, marching on the Capitol, beating cops with batons and saying you want to hang Mike Pence…was bad idea,” he said. “A lot of them thought that was… a big deal.
“Obviously, the broader public from the far right to the center left in Nebraska felt that we represented their actual community views fairly decently.”
Sasse said he plans to spend his final days in the Senate doing his favorite part of the job, which is attending classified briefings and reading classified material as a member of the Intelligence Committee.
He and his wife plan to keep their home in the Fremont area.
Sasse said he told the Florida athletics director not to schedule the University of Nebraska for major sports so he wouldn’t have divided loyalties.
He joked doing so would be a “flammable offence”.