President Donald Trump’s reelection campaign has released its list of honorary Nebraska chairs, and there is one notable name missing.
It may not be surprising that one of Trump’s most vocal Republican critics — U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse — has not signed on as an honorary chair of his campaign.
But Sasse stands alone among Nebraska’s all-GOP federal delegation. His fellow senator Deb Fischer, as well as Nebraska’s three House members, Jeff Fortenberry, Don Bacon and Adrian Smith, have all signed on as honorary state chairs. So have Gov. Pete Ricketts and former Govs. Dave Heineman and Kay Orr.
Heineman, an early supporter of Trump’s in 2016, said he got a call from the Trump regional political director. “It was a short conversation. I said yes.”
Sasse spokesman James Wegmann said the senator declined to be on the state chair list because “we were told that being on the list would amount to a pledge to never disagree.”
Sasse frequently votes with Trump, especially on “great judges,” Wegmann said. “But when it comes to significant areas where they disagree, like on trade and on budget-busting spending bills, he still has to speak up.
“That’s how Ben’s done his job in the Senate, and that’s how he’s running his race.”
He said Sasse is committed to supporting the Republican ticket and fighting “the Democrats’ insane switch to socialism.”
Sasse has criticized Trump often since the businessman became the Republican nominee for president in 2016. Sasse skipped the nominating convention, saying he’d rather watch “a dumpster fire.” He said he would write in now-Vice President Mike Pence as his pick for president.
Last year he called one of the president’s tariff decisions “dumb.”
Sasse has voted with Trump 85.4% of the time, according to the tally kept by fivethirtyeight.com, but in the past two Congresses only 13 Republicans have voted with Trump less. (For comparison, Fischer has voted with the president 91.5% of the time in that tally.)
Sasse’s staff refers to a CQ Vote Watch analysis of 2018 that shows Sasse voting with Trump 96% of the time, compared with the 97.5 party average for Senate Republicans.
But in the past year or so, Sasse has been much less openly critical of Trump’s policies.
Sasse, too, is up for reelection in 2020. His criticism of Trump has drawn a primary challenger in Republican Matt Innis, who said Nebraska needs a senator who will support the president.