BIPARTISAN RESPONSIBILITY

A video of a Republican senator blasting America’s “impotent legislature” has gone viral

Civics lesson.
Civics lesson.
Image: Andrew Harnik/Reuters
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Republican senator Ben Sasse’s statement during Brett Kavanaugh’s US Supreme Court nomination hearings may not have received much media attention—unsurprising, given the events surrounding the nomination—but it sure hit a nerve with the public.

Sasse, from Nebraska, delivered a thesis on Sept. 4 as to why Supreme Court nomination hearings are deeply flawed. The confirmation hearings eventually culminated in a turbulent and intense day of testimony Sept. 27 by Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused the nominee of sexual assault. The testimony, and Kavanaugh’s nomination, have brought into sharp focus (paywall) the country’s political and ideological faultlines.

Sasse said ahead of those events that the hearings were doomed to be a “politicized, overblown circus” because Congress has effectively handed over its power to the White House, making the Supreme Court a “substitute battleground for America.”

“The legislature is impotent. The legislature is weak. And most people here want their jobs more than they really want to do legislative work. And so they punt most of the work to the next branch,” Sasse said. “Our constitution places the policy-making power in the 535 of our hands because the voters can hire and fire us. And, if the voters are going to retain their power, they need a legislature that’s responsive to politics, not a judiciary that’s responsive to politics.”

A video of Sasse’s 11-minute statement has racked up 10 million views on Facebook since it was published, with Fox’s version attracting almost two million views on YouTube so far.

Correction, Oct. 3: An earlier version of this article stated that Sasse’s statement was made during the Kavanaugh hearings on Sept. 27. It was made on Sept. 4.