Republican Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse kicked off his portion of Monday’s Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings by describing what he called a “distinction between civics and politics.”
The late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg was confirmed 96-3 in 1993, and fellow late Justice Antonin Scalia enjoyed a 98-0 confirmation vote in 1986. Sasse referred to that history on Monday as he listed things he thought both parties should be able to agree on. “I think some of what happened between then and now is we decided to forget what civics are and allow politics to swallow everything,” Sasse said. “So if I can start I would like to remind us of the distinction between civics and politics.”
Sasse described civics as “the stuff we’re all supposed to agree on regardless of our policy view differences.”
“Civics is another way we talk about the rules of the road,” he continued. “Civics 101 is the stuff like Congress writes laws, the executive branch enforces laws, courts apply them. None of that stuff should be different if you are a Republican or a Democrat or a libertarian or a green party member. This is basic civics.”
The Nebraska senator went on, stating that everyone should agree that “religious liberty is essential” and that “judges should be impartial.” Sasse then defined politics as “the stuff that happens underneath civics.”
“Politics is the less important stuff we differ about,” he said. “Politics is like if I look at my friend Chris Coons and say, ‘Listen up, jackwagon, what you want to do on this particular finance committee bill is gonna be way too expensive and might bankrupt our kids,’ or if Chris looks back at me and he says, ‘Listen up, jackwagon, you’re too much of a cheapskate and you’re under-investing in the next generation.'” (RELATED: Marco Rubio: Joe Biden Would Likely ‘Prefer Not’ To Pack Court If He Wins, But He ‘Has No Choice’)
“That’s a really important debate,” Sasse said. “That’s a political debate. That’s not civics. Civics is more important than that. Civics doesn’t change every 18 to 24 months because the electoral winds change or because polling changes. I think it’s important that we help our kids understand that politics is the legitimate stuff we fight about and civics is the places where we pull back and say, wait a minute, we have things that are in common.”
While Supreme Court nominees have often enjoyed bipartisan Senate confirmations in the past, that has not been the case in a number of recent nominations. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell used the “nuclear option,” bypassing the filibuster, in order to secure confirmations for Trump-appointed Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Trump’s nominee to fill the seat of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg likewise faces another such partisan divide, with every Democrat and even two Republicans already on record as likely “no” votes.