Freshman Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) was "brutally honest" during his maiden speech on the Senate floor Tuesday, telling colleagues: "The people despise us all."
"I'm home basically every weekend, and what I hear -- and what I'm sure most of you hear -- is some version of this: 'A pox on both parties and all your houses. We don't believe politicians are even trying to fix this mess,'" Sasse said during his 30-minute speech.
He continued: "Socrates said it was dishonorable to make the lesser argument appear the greater -- or to take someone else's argument and distort it so that you don't have to engage their strongest points. Yet here, on this floor, we regularly devolve into bizarre partisan-politician speech. We hear robotic recitations of talking points.
"Each of us," the 43-year-old senator said, "has an obligation to be able to answer our constituents' question: Why doesn't the Congress work? And what is your plan for fixing the Senate in particular? And if your only answer is that the other party is fully to blame, then we don't get it, and the American people understandably think that we are part of the problem, not the solution."
The chamber was full during Sasse's speech, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, (R-Ky.), Sen. Ted Cruz, (R-Texas) and Sen. Thomas R. Carper, (D-Del.) in attendance.
Sasse was elected to the Senate last year with no political experience. He had been president of Midland College, a small Lutheran school in Nebraska.
In an interview with CQ Roll Call after his speech, Sasse said he told Nebraskans he would not speak from the Senate floor until he had served a year in Congress.
“People know that the institution doesn’t work right now, and they want it to work better,” Sasse said.
Watch Sasse's full speech here.
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