Ben Sasse officially left the U.S. Senate on Jan. 8 to become president of a college in Florida.

Sasse, 50, announced he was departing at noon on Sunday in a recent resignation letter to then-Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican.

He said in the letter he was confident that Republican Jim Pillen, who succeeded Ricketts on Jan. 5, would appoint someone to the vacant seat “who will serve Nebraskans well in Washington.”

Sasse’s departure takes Republicans down to 48 senators. That will go back up to 49 once Sasse’s replacement is selected. Democrats, with the help of nominal independents, control 51 seats.

Serving in Congress since 2015, Sasse was re-elected in 2020. Senate terms are six years.

Under Nebraska law, the governor appoints a replacement if either Senate seat representing Nebraska becomes vacant. A special election will be held in 2024 for voters to choose who serves the remainder of the term.

Ricketts has been floated as a possible pick for Pillen to appoint to the vacant seat. Democrats have criticized the possibility.

“Hard-working Nebraskans know that Ricketts purchased Pillen’s seat, and to reciprocate, Pillen is handing Ricketts’ a US Senate seat to return the favor,” Jane Kleeb, the chairwoman of the Nebraska Democratic Party, said in a statement.

Ricketts backed Pillen in the race to succeed him.

Pillen was taking applications from people interested in an appointment. The deadline was Dec. 23, 2022. It’s not clear when the appointment will be announced or who applied.

“Governor Pillen is currently in the process of reviewing candidates and an appointment will be made promptly. We will also be making available a list of names of everyone who applied after the appointment is made,” a spokesman for the governor told The Epoch Times via email.

Sasse was leaving to become president of the University of Florida.

Among those who said they applied to replace him were retired Air Force Lt. Col. John Glen Weaver, a Republican, and Ann Ashford, a Democrat attorney.

Farewell Speech

In his last speech on the Senate floor, Sasse on Jan. 3 thanked Nebraskans for voting him in twice.

“Serving the people of Nebraska as their senator has been a unique honor and I will remain grateful for all that I’ve learned from the folks who do more to feed the world than any people, anytime or place, in all of human history—quite literally,” Sasse said.

The senator noted that even while campaigning he pledged not to spend his life in Washington and he has co-sponsored legislation that would impose term limits on senators.

Sasse also decried both the left and the right, claiming that while the left aims to give more power to “unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats,” the right wants to “give similar kinds of power to a strong man.”

The senator, who voted to convict President Donald Trump during his impeachment, also alleged that Trump won the 2016 election “simply because he was the second most unpopular person in the history of polling,” or barely more popular than his competitor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

“By the way, we roughly did the same thing again four years later. Forget the nonsense about a new FDR administration. America elected a new guy because they were sick of the old guy,” Sasse said.

Sasse said dysfunction in Congress stems in part from the Senate not working very well and called on each senator to “look in the mirror” and to strive to improve the upper chamber. Sasse argued for “a certain kind of moderation” and “more gratitude, not more grievance.”

Zachary Stieber is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times based in Maryland. He covers U.S. and world news.

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