On Sunday, Ben Sasse (R) of Nebraska formally resigned from the US Senate. Sasse voted for then-President Donald Trump’s impeachment on February 13, 2021 for inciting the January 6 riots, charges which he was acquitted of. Sasse acknowledges his criticism of Trump will mark his tenure.
The Senate seat will be filled by an appointment from new Nebraska Governor Jim Pillen (R) and is widely anticipated to be his predecessor, former Governor Pete Ricketts (R) who was term-limited from re-election.
Sasse accepted a job as the President of the University of Florida, which reportedly comes with a $1 million salary. In October, Sasse called UF the “most interesting university in America right now.” Sasse had previously been the President of the smaller Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska – a Lutheran school of about 1,700 students.
In his January 3 farewell address, Sasse decried “performative BS” and opportunistic media bookings of politicians on evening news broadcasts. He also reflected on how Nebraska voters have made him feel, saying,
“Our wrestling together, Nebraskans and me, over the last eight years has had some marked ups and downs, as you gave me victories in all 93 counties … and then made me the most censured public official in the history of Nebraska over the next six years, but then proceeded two years ago to reelect me again. Many times it felt like a noogie and a slap and a head butt and a hug all at once.”
But, the plot thickens. The Guardian reported in October that Florida’s Governor and Trump’s potential primary rival for the presidential nomination, Ron DeSantis (R) may be behind Sasse’s move.
NBC News reported that Sasse’s move was the result of Republican rivalries. Quoting “a top Republican insider”, the outlet said the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, was behind the move, which was meant as one in the eye for Trump.
Marc Caputo, a reporter, wrote: “In May, Trump said he regretted supporting Ben Sasse. Now, DeSantis’s man at UF has engineered Sasse’s hiring. ‘Everyone knows what this is about: Ron and Don,’ a top Republican insider tells me, echoing others.”
In October, the Florida Times-Union reported that DeSantis had signed a law earlier in 2022 making the applications for college presidential positions confidential, “effectively cloaking the process in secrecy until the very end stages.”
It remains unclear how Sasse’s role at UF would impact the race for the presidency, though it may be more than just a move to spite Trump. And, to nobody’s surprise, Trump shot back on Truth Social following DeSantis’ announcement about Sasse’s selection.
“Great news for the United States Senate, and our Country itself. Liddle’ Ben Sasse, the lightweight Senator from the great State of Nebraska, will be resigning. The University of Florida will soon regret their decision to hire him as their President … We have enough weak and ineffective RINOs in our midst.”
As the tensions increase on the path to the presidency, a new Senator replacing Sasse is a welcome shake-up for the populist Republican base, the same base that ousted RINO Liz Cheney for similar behaviors.