Ben Sasse

Ben Sasse
United States Senator
from Nebraska
Assumed office
January 3, 2015
Serving with Deb Fischer
Preceded by Mike Johanns
Personal details
Born Benjamin Eric Sasse
(1972-02-22) February 22, 1972
Plainview, Nebraska, U.S.
Political party Republican
Alma mater Harvard University
St. John's College, Annapolis
Yale University
Religion Presbyterianism (PCA)[1]
Website Senate website

Benjamin Eric "Ben" Sasse (pronunciation: /ˈsæs/ SASS;[2] born February 22, 1972) is an American politician. Sasse, a member of the Republican Party, is the junior United States Senator from the state of Nebraska.

Sasse earned a doctorate in history from Yale University and taught at the University of Texas before becoming President of Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska in 2010. In 2014, he was elected to fill the U.S Senate seat being vacated by Mike Johanns, defeating Democratic Party candidate David Domina by a margin of 65% to 31%.[3]

Early life and education

A fifth-generation Nebraskan,[4] Sasse was born on February 22, 1972, in Plainview, Nebraska, the son of Linda K. (Dunklau) and Gary Lynn Sasse. He graduated from Fremont Senior High School in Fremont, Nebraska, in 1990,[5] where he was valedictorian.[6]

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.[5]

Sasse graduated from St. John’s College in 1998 with a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies and from Yale University with a Master of Arts degree (M.A.), Master of Philosophy (M.Phil.) and Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D), all from the Department of History, in 2004. Sasse’s dissertation, The Anti-Madalyn Majority: Secular Left, Religious Right, and the Rise of Reagan's America won the Theron Rockwell Field (best dissertation) and the George Washington Egleston (American history) Prizes.[5][7]

Career and politics

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).[5] During Sasse's tenure, CURE merged with the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals (ACE), and Sasse became executive director of ACE in Anaheim, California.[5][8]

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-NE) from January 2005 to July 2005.[5]

Sasse then advised the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in Washington, DC, 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.[5]

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, DC, where he advised the Secretary on a broad spectrum of health policy issues, from affordable 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.[9][10] His appointment was confirmed by the Senate in December 2007[11] and served until the end of the Bush Administration in January 2009. During his tenure at HHS, Sasse took unpaid leave from the University of Texas.[5]

During 2009, Sasse was advising private equity clients and health care investors and teaching at the University of Texas.[12][13] In October 2009, Sasse 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.[14]

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.[15] The school was floundering both financially and academically; 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 with "prodigious fundraising."[16][17]

Sasse was officially installed as president on December 10, 2010.[18] When he was appointed, enrollment was at a historic low and the college was "on the verge of bankruptcy."[15][19] During his tenure as president, enrollment grew from 590 to 1,300 students.[15][20] 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.[20]

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;[21] in October 2013, Sasse's employment contract was amended to reduce his presidential duties and salary.[22] Sasse stepped down as president of Midland in January 2015.[19]

U.S. Senate

2014 election

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.[23] As of October 2013, Sasse's 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 Johanns while he was sitting U.S. Secretary of Agriculture.[24]

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",[25] later declaring that "[i]f it lives, America as we know it will die."[23] Sasse's campaign website indicated that he was pro-life, stating "even one abortion is too many".[26] The website did not refer explicitly to same-sex marriage, but states "Ben believes marriage is between one man & one woman..."[27]

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."[28] 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",[29] and a 2010 speech in which Sasse stated 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 useful alternative to the ACA, preferring to stage "symbolic repeal votes".[30] 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".[28]

On May 13, 2014, Sasse won 92 of 93 counties[31] 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%).[32]

On November 4, 2014, Sasse won the general election for the U.S. Senate, defeating Democratic nominee David Domina with 64.4% of the vote to Domina's 31.5%.[33]


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.[34][35]

2016 presidential election

Further information: Stop Trump movement

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.[36] 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".[37] 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".[37] According to a Sasse spokesman, he did not say that he would necessarily leave the party if Trump was nominated.[38]

Trump, asked about Sasse's third-party suggestion, stated "That would be the work of a loser."[38] 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.[39]


Sasse has been appointed to serve on the following committees in the 114th Congress:[40]

Personal life

Sasse, and his wife, Melissa (McLeod) Sasse, live in Fremont, Nebraska, with their three children; the children are homeschooled.[41][42] Sasse grew up a Lutheran and was baptized in the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod.[41] He later became an elder in the United Reformed Churches in North America, and served on the board of trustees for Westminster Seminary California.[43] Sasse continues to appreciate Lutheranism despite his conversion to Reformed Protestantism; he has called himself a "Lutero-Calvinist". He is currently a member at Grace Church in Fremont, Nebraska, a church of the Presbyterian Church in America.[1]


  1. 1 2 Derrick, J. C. "Ben Sasse: A Reformed reformer". World. 2016-09-30. Retrieved 2016-10-05.
  2. Walton, Don. "Ben Sasse: Getting to know you". Lincoln Journal Star. 2013-06-10. Retrieved 2013-11-22.
  3. "National election results 2014". Washington Post. Retrieved 2014-11-09.
  4. Wilson, Rid (2013-05-13). "14 things to know about Ben Sasse, Nebraska's next senator". Washington Post. Retrieved 2016-05-24.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 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 2007-11-01. Retrieved 2014-01-11.
  6. Roth, Zachary (2016-05-05). "Ben Sasse, GOP senator, leads #NeverTrump movement". MSNBC. Retrieved 2016-05-05.
  7. " Dissertations By Year". Yale University. Retrieved 2014-01-11.
  8. Maruina, Todd, "Conference of Top Evangelical Leaders Calls Evangelical Movement to Repentance for Liberal Theological Drifts". United Reformed News Service 2006-05-21. Retrieved 2014-01-12.
  9. "Evaluation: Performance Improvement 2008". U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved 2015-02-19.
  10. "Personnel Announcement". The White House. 2007-07-26. Retrieved 2014-01-12.
  11. "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 2014-01-12.
  12. K. Weems & B. Sasse, "Is Government Health Insurance Cheap?" Wall Street Journal. 2009-04-19. Retrieved 2014-01-11.
  13. Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) & Benjamin Sasse, "Do Healthcare Reformers Fear A Reading Public?" Forbes. 2009-11-09. Retrieved 2011-01-11.
  14. "LBJ School of Public Affairs Professor Ben Sasse Joins Center for Politics and Governance As Fellow". University of Texas. 2009-10-06. Retrieved 2014-01-12.
  15. 1 2 3 Ricker, Steven (2014-05-22). "Sasse to resign from Midland at year's end". Fremont Tribune. Retrieved 2016-05-25.
  16. Hampson, Rick (2016-06-07). "Ben Sasse, the Senate GOP's 'Never Trumper,' irks some voters at home". USA Today. Retrieved 2016-06-09.
  17. Buffington, Tracy (2015-01-03). "Sasse reflects on his five years at Midland". Fremont Tribune. Retrieved 2016-05-25.
  18. "Office of the President". Midland University. Retrieved 2013-06-13.
  19. 1 2 Buffington, Tracy (2016-01-10). "Sen. Sasse looks back on 5 years at Midland University". Washington Times. Retrieved 2016-05-25.
  20. 1 2 Walton, Don (2013-06-10). "Getting to Know Ben sasse". Lincoln Start Journal. Retrieved 2016-05-25.
  21. Moring, Roseann. "Ben Sasse says he can whip government into shape". Omaha World-Herald. 2014-04-07. Retrieved 2014-04-08.
  22. United States Senate Financial Disclosures. United States Senate. 2013-12-23. Retrieved 2014-01-11.
  23. 1 2 Tysver, Robynn. "If Obamacare survives, U.S. won't, Ben Sasse says as he officially launches Senate bid". Omaha World-Herald. 2013-10-08. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  24. Tysver, Robynn (2013-10-15). "Donors spread funds across Senate race, though Ben Sasse far ahead of other candidates". Omaha World Herald. Retrieved 2013-10-17.
  25. Ben Sasse (2013-12-03). "Ben Sasse: I'm running to repeal the Obamacare worldview". Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved 2013-10-07.
  26. "Defending the Unborn". Sasse for Nebraska. Archived from the original Archived April 18, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. on 2014-04-18.
  27. "Issues". Sasse for Nebraska. Retrieved 2014-10-19. Archived 2014-10-17 at
  28. 1 2 Burnett, James R. "Opponents scour Ben Sasse's old writings for fodder". Omaha World-Herald. 2013-11-25. Retrieved 2014-01-13.
  29. Sasse, Benjamin E. "Health-Care Reform: The Rush to Pass a Bad Bill". Bloomberg Businessweek. 2009-07-01. Retrieved 2014-01-03.
  30. Zavadil, Chris. "Sasse speaks at health care summit". Fremont Tribune. 2010-11-06. Retrieved 2013-11-15.
  31. Walton, Don (2014-10-19). "Sasse is new Republican voice". Lincoln Journal Star. Retrieved 2014-10-27.
  32. "Nebraska Primary Election Results". Archived May 24, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. New York Times. No date on story. Retrieved 2014-10-20. Archived 2014-05-24 at
  33. "Official Report of the Board of State Canvassers of the State of Nebraska: General Election, November 4, 2014." Archived January 8, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. Nebraska Secretary of State. Retrieved 2015-01-08. Archived 2015-01-08 at Wayback Machine.
  34. Howell, Tom (2016-03-10). "Senate overwhelmingly approves bill to fight deadly opioid, heroin epidemic". The Washington Times. Retrieved 2016-03-12.
  35. Arkin, James (2016-03-10). "Senate Passes Bill Addressing Heroin, Opioid Crisis". Real Clear Politics. Retrieved 2016-03-12.
  36. Levy, Gabrielle. "Republicans Vow to Oppose Trump in November". U.S. News & World Report. 2016-02-29. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  37. 1 2 Sasse, Ben. "An open letter to Trump supporters". Facebook, 2016-02-28. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  38. 1 2 Morton, Joseph. "Ben Sasse: If GOP embraces politics of Donald Trump, 'I'm out'". Omaha World-Herald. 2016-03-02. Retrieved 2016-03-04.
  39. Daly, Matthew. "Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse is again tangling with Donald Trump and his supporters". U.S. News & World Report. 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2016-03-04. Two-page article; Krist's comments are on first page, Fischer's on second.
  40. "Senate Republican Committee Assignments for the 114th Congress". Archived February 2, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. Senate Republican Conference. 2014-12-15. Retrieved 2015-02-19. Archived 2015-02-02 at Wayback Machine.
  41. 1 2 "Ben Sasse Bio". Archived December 16, 2014, at the Wayback Machine. Sarpy County Republican Party. Retrieved 2014-12-16. Archived 2014-12-16 at Wayback Machine.
  42. "Ben Sasse's Biography". Project Vote Smart. Retrieved 2016-03-08.
  43. Westminster Seminary California, Catalogue 2014–2015, p. 89. Retrieved 2016-06-27.
Academic offices
Preceded by
Stephen Fritz
15th President of Midland University
Succeeded by
Jody Horner
Party political offices
Preceded by
Mike Johanns
Republican nominee for U.S. Senator from Nebraska
(Class 2)

Most recent
United States Senate
Preceded by
Mike Johanns
U.S. Senator (Class 2) from Nebraska
Served alongside: Deb Fischer
United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Joni Ernst
United States Senators by seniority
Succeeded by
Dan Sullivan
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