Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) is firing back at two of his Democratic counterparts after they questioned a judicial nominee’s fairness because of his ties to a major Catholic charity.
In early December, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) submitted written questions for 43-year-old Brian Buescher, President Donald Trump’s nominee to serve on the U.S. District Court of Nebraska.
Both Hirono and Harris were very concerned about Buescher’s work with the Knights of Columbus.
The Hawaiian senator argued the Catholic organization has “taken a number of extreme positions” over the years, including opposition to same-sex marriage and the protection of unborn babies. So Hirono asked Buescher if he would abandon the Knights of Columbus “to avoid any appearance of bias.”
For her part, Harris criticized the faith-based charity for being an “all-male society” that has long “opposed a woman’s right to choose,” meaning it’s pro-life.
How did Sasse respond?
In a speech from the Senate floor earlier this week, Sasse called on his colleagues to “unanimously reaffirm our oath of office to a Constitution that rejects religious bigotry,” noting the country’s “fundamental celebration of human dignity and human freedom.”
“Just as the First Amendment prohibits the government from dictating anyone’s religious beliefs, so, too, the Constitution explicitly rejects religious tests for federal office,” Sasse explained. “This isn’t a Republican belief, this isn’t a Democratic belief — this is an American belief. But tragically, over the last couple of years, some strange things have been happening in this body and we seem to be forgetting some of those basic 101 civics truths.”
During his speech, the Nebraska lawmaker introduced a simple resolution “expressing the sense of the Senate that disqualifying a nominee to federal office on the basis of membership in the Knights of Columbus violates the Constitution of the United States.”
Sasse, calling the attacks against Buescher’s faith “nuts,” explained that former President John F. Kennedy also faced significant “anti-Catholic bigotry.”
At the time, Kennedy said:
For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday again be, a Jew or a Quaker, a Unitarian or a Baptist. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.
The popular Republican senator introduced the resolution on Wednesday, which was National Religious Freedom Day, and asked for unanimous consent to adopt the document.
Because of the way Sasse introduced the resolution — by requesting unanimous consent — Hirono and Harris had the opportunity to object to the resolution, which would force a vote on it, or they and their fellow Democrats could remain silent, therefore affirming the politician’s rebuke of their actions against Buescher.
“If a senator has a problem with this resolution,” Sasse concluded, “you’re probably in the wrong line of work, because this is what America is.”