GOP Sen. Ben Sasse expected to resign from Senate to lead University of Florida

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse is expected to resign his seat and take a job as president of the University of Florida, a person close to Sasse told Yahoo News on Thursday afternoon.

The Republican senator has been given unanimous approval from the University of Florida selection committee seeking a new president and is expected to be vetted by a series of other university boards before the offer is formally extended to him in mid-November, the person said.

“I think Florida is the most interesting university in America right now,” Sasse said in a tweet Thursday, although he did not directly confirm his plans to take the reins of Florida’s flagship university. “If UF wants to go big, I’m excited about the wide range of opportunities.”

Sasse is expected to resign his seat in the Senate after the midterm elections to take the job, giving Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, the opportunity to fill the vacancy, the person said.

Ben Sasse
Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska. (Tasos Katopodis/Pool via Reuters)

“This is right for the University of Florida, right for the state of Florida and right for the Sasse family,” Rahul Patel, chair of the university’s Presidential Search Committee, said in a statement Thursday. “Ben brings intellectual curiosity, a belief in the power and potential of American universities, and an unmatched track record of leadership spanning higher education, government and the private sector.”

The Ivy League-educated lawmaker left a job as president of Midland University in Nebraska in 2014 after winning his first term in the Senate.

In a few years, he established himself as an outspoken critic of Donald Trump through his tenure, saying he would not vote for Trump in 2016 because he doubted his commitment to the Constitution and, almost five years later, joining six other Republican senators in voting to convict Trump for his role in the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Sasse built a national following touting policies that used to be hallmarks of the Republican Party before Trump, including hawkish stances on federal spending and national security. In a speech at the Reagan Library this past June, he derided the “performance artists” and “weirdos” who he said have come to dominate modern politics.

“This is a government of the weirdos, by the weirdos and for the weirdos,” Sasse said in the speech.

Ben Sasse
Sasse, center, with Sen. Ted Cruz and Sen. Josh Hawley at the confirmation hearing of Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in March. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images)

But the Republican Party has moved solidly in Trump’s direction in the last seven years, leaving little wiggle room for establishment conservatives like Sasse.