Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican who voted to impeach former President Donald Trump after the attack on the US Capitol, officially resigned from the Senate Sunday, opening up his seat for appointment by Nebraska’s Republican Gov. Jim Pillen.
Sasse announced last year that he would step down from his position to become the University of Florida’s next president. His academic appointment by Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis was approved by the university’s Board of Trustees in November despite criticism from students and faculty over the secretive search process, Sasse’s limited relevant experience and his past criticisms of same-sex marriage.
“I’m here rather than at some other school, or rather than trying to claw to stay in the United States Senate for decades, because I believe that this is the most interesting institution in the state that has the most happening right now, and is therefore the best positioned to help lead our country through a time of unprecedented change,” Sasse told the UF board at the time.
Sasse made little secret of the frustration he felt with the Senate and the changing nature of the Republican Party. He explained his decision to vote to convict Trump by saying that the former president’s lies about the election “had consequences” and brought the country “dangerously close to a bloody constitutional crisis.” He was one of seven Republican senators to vote to convict Trump after the House of Representatives impeached him for incitement of an insurrection.
Before his election to the Senate in 2014, Sasse was president of Midland University, a private Lutheran liberal arts school in Nebraska with an enrollment of about 1,600 students. He graduated from Harvard and earned a PhD in American history at Yale and also worked at Boston Consulting Group, McKinsey and private equity firms, according to his website.
The University of Florida has an enrollment of over 60,000 students on a 2,000-acre campus with over a thousand buildings. Unlike Sasse, the university’s most recent presidents had extensive careers as administrators at major universities prior to taking the school’s top job.
Sasse was reelected to another six-year term in 2020. His resignation will not change the balance of power in the Senate. The seat will temporarily filled by an appointment made by Pillen, who was elected in November and was sworn in on Thursday.