News and Magazine

  • Republican Sen. Ben Sasse is reportedly going to resign from the chamber.
  • Politico reports that Sasse will take a job with the University of Florida.

Republican Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a staunch conservative who often criticized Donald Trump, is likely to leave the chamber to take a job at the University of Florida.

The University of Florida presidential search committee announced on Thursday that Sasse is its unanimous recommendation to lead the university. The university’s board of trustees will now consider his nomination before a final vote by the board of governors.

“This is right for the University of Florida, right for the state of Florida and right for the Sasse family,” said Rahul Patel, chair of the Presidential Search Committee, said in a statement. “Ben brings intellectual curiosity, a belief in the power and potential of American universities, and an unmatched track record of leadership spanning higher education, government and the private sector.”

Sasse was previously president of Midland University in Fremont, Nebraska, a small, private Lutheran university, for five years before his election to the Senate in 2014. Before that, he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard and Ph.D. from Yale, and worked in the George W. Bush administration.

“The University of Florida is the most interesting university in America right now,” Sasse said in a statement. “It’s the most important institution in the nation’s most economically dynamic state — and its board, faculty and graduates are uniquely positioned to lead this country through an era of disruption. The caliber of teaching and research at UF is unmistakable, carried out through the core principles of shared governance and academic freedom. I’m thrilled about the opportunity to work alongside one of the nation’s most outstanding faculties.”

A two-term senator, Sasse became a frequent critic of Trump throughout his time in the White House. Trump responded by calling him a “gym rat” and trying to recruit a primary challenger. Sasse just won reelection to his second term in 2020. His legacy will likely be led by the fact that he was one of seven Republicans who voted to convict Trump on impeachment charges related to inciting the January 6 Capitol riot. Sasse has also taken a keen interest in US cybersecurity policy, serving on the Solarium Commission, a panel tasked with developing a strategic approach against significant cyber attacks.

Sasse also flirted with presidential ambitions, campaigning in Iowa, home to the first-in-the-nation caucuses, though his outspoken criticism led to an icy reception from senior party officials. Back at home, Sasse’s anti-Trump views also led the state party to approve a formal rebuke of him.

But Sasse has never seemed entirely satisfied in the Senate. After his election, he waited nearly a year to deliver his first floor speech. He has often bemoaned the intense partisanship that has only grown in the nation’s capital. He’s also published two books, though neither is the traditional tome of a US senator. One was devoted to what Sasse views as the “vanishing adult” and the other was an exploration of how American politics became so tribal.

Should Sasse retire soon, Gov. Pete Ricketts, a fellow Republican, would appoint his successor. Ricketts is term-limited and previously ran an unsuccessful challenge to then-Sen. Ben Nelson, the last Democrat to represent Nebraska in the chamber. Ricketts is a member of the wealthy Ricketts family that made a fortune through Ameritrade, now TD Ameritrade, a financial services company based in Omaha. The family currently owns the Chicago Cubs.

Ricketts would be viewed as a likely candidate for the job, though he has flirted with his own White House aspirations.

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