Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse on Monday gave an anti-court-packing and pro-religious freedom “civics lesson” on the first day of confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett.
Sasse, a Republican often at odds with President Trump, defended Barrett and swiped at the Democratic push to expand the number of justices if the party wins the Nov. 3 election.
“If we can back up and do a little bit of eighth-grade civics, I think it would benefit us and benefit the watching country,” Sasse said in his opening statement.
The 48-year-old former president of Midland University in Nebraska said, “I’d like to just remind us of the distinction between civics and politics.”
“Civics is the stuff we’re all supposed to agree on regardless of our policy view differences,” he said. “Civics is another way we talk about the rules of the road. Civics 101 is the stuff like, ‘Congress writes laws, the executive branch enforces laws, courts apply them.’ ”
Sasse said, “Politics is the stuff that happens underneath civics. Civics is the overarching stuff we as Americans agree in common.”
“Court packing is the idea that we should blow up our shared civics, that we should end the deliberative structure of the Senate by making it just another majoritarian body for the purposes of packing the Supreme Court,” he said.
Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has refused to take a position on packing the court before the Nov. 3 election.
Sasse said criticism of Barrett’s religion — focused on her role in the Christian group People of Praise — was also “a violation of our basic civics.”
“This committee isn’t in the business of deciding which religious beliefs are good and which religious beliefs are bad and which religious beliefs are weird. And I just want to say, as somebody who’s self-consciously a Christian, we got a whole bunch more really ‘weird’ beliefs. Forgiveness of sins, the virgin birth, resurrection of the dead, eternal life,” Sasse said.
“They’re a whole bunch of really, really crazy ideas that are a lot weirder than some Catholic moms giving each other advice about parenting. And yet there are places where this committee has acted like it’s the job of the committee to delve into people’s religious communities.”
Sasse is known for periodically defying Trump. In August, the president slammed him as a “RINO” — Republican in name only — for opposing a set of executive orders granting COVID-19 relief, including a federal evictions ban and an unemployment insurance supplement.
“RINO Ben Sasse, who needed my support and endorsement in order to get the Republican nomination for Senate from the GREAT State of Nebraska, has, now that he’s got it (Thank you President T), gone rogue, again,” Trump tweeted. “This foolishness plays right into the hands of the Radical Left Dems!”
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