July 24, 2019
Senate Confirms Buescher 51-40.
"Today is a good day — for this body, for the state of Nebraska, and for every American who is committed to the rule of law including our first freedom, which is religious liberty... At the same time, Brian’s confirmation process has been the occasion for one of the most baffling displays of constitutional confusion and of prejudice I’ve seen in my time here."
Video of Senator Sasse's speech is available here or by clicking on the image above.
U.S. Senator Ben Sasse, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee who shepherded Brian Buescher’s nomination process in the Senate, spoke on the Senate floor shortly before Mr. Buescher was confirmed to be U.S. District Judge for the District of Nebraska. Mr. Buescher was confirmed by a 51-40 vote.
Sasse's full remarks are found below:
Today is a good day — for this body, for the state of Nebraska, and for every American who is committed to the rule of law including our first freedom, which is religious liberty.
In a few minutes, we'll be voting to confirm Brian Buescher to the federal bench for the district of Nebraska. Brian is a born-and-raised Nebraskan, he’s a husband, a father of five, and for nearly two decades he has served his home state admirably in the legal profession. His nomination is an honor for our state, and it’s a testament to his integrity and to his tireless service.
At the same time, Brian’s confirmation process has been the occasion for one of the most baffling displays of constitutional confusion and of prejudice I’ve seen in my time here. Brian is a Catholic, and he is a member of the Knights of Columbus. The Knights of Columbus is the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world. The organization’s 1.6 million members raise millions and millions of dollars every year for charity, and they contribute millions, literally millions, and millions of hours of volunteer service and volunteer charity for their neighbors. Like a lot of Catholic men in Nebraska, Brian joined the Knights of Columbus as a way to give back to his community.
This is not a scandal. This is actually just really basic, sometimes really boring, love of neighbor. But it's the kind of stuff that makes communities work. But according to some of my Senate Judiciary colleagues, Brian’s association with this extraordinary charitable organization — again, really mundane, the Knights of Columbus, the largest Catholic fraternal organization in the world — according to some of my colleagues, the Knights of Columbus is an extremist outfit. One of my colleagues suggested that Brian needs to resign his membership in the Knights if he were confirmed to the federal bench to "avoid the appearance of conflict and bias." Really bizarre stuff.
The Knights of Columbus, to be clear, is not some shadowy organization from a Dan Brown novel. The Knights is a bunch of guys who organize fish fries, sometimes they sell tootsie rolls, but basically what they're doing is helping fund organizations like the Special Olympics. That’s what they do in Omaha and Lincoln and across Nebraska and across the country. It is really weird that we are talking about the Knights of Columbus as an extremist organization.
In this weird rebirth of McCarthyism, it seems that Catholics are to replace the Communists. And this isn't just Brian. We've had other nominees come before the Senate Judiciary Committee this year being asked questions laughably close to: ‘Are you now or have you ever been involved in the organization of a fish fry?' We have people ask questions that sound like they're going to be called to account for what their prayer may have been at the last pancake feed – 'have you or your colleagues ever been involved in any plot to overthrow the United States Government at a fish fry?' 'How long has the dogma lived loudly within you,' one of our nominees was asked, 'and if you had to rank the dogma on a volume scale from 1-10 just how loud is the dogma?’
This stuff seems almost laughable unless you pause and recognize that the United States Senate Judiciary Committee is asking nominees questions like this. This shouldn't be happening.
Again, just so we are clear: A United States Senator, who has taken an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, asked Brian, as a faithful Catholic, to resign his membership in the Knights of Columbus to "avoid the appearance of bias."
The implication in these question is really straightforward, it is that Brian's religious beliefs, and his affiliation with this Catholic religious fraternal organization, might make him unfit for service.
Let’s put it bluntly: This was plain, unadulterated anti-Catholic bigotry and this isn’t a new thing in U.S. history and it’s just a new old thing – 60 years ago in this body John F. Kennedy was asked as he was running for President some really similar questions. It's also plainly unconstitutional. Every member of this body, all 100 of us, has raised our hands and took an oath to defend the Constitution, which in Article 6 states — in language so clear that even a politician has to acknowledge that it says what it says — "no religious test shall ever be required as qualification to any office or public trust under the United States." Just want to say this again, this is straight out of the Constitution, Article 6 – "no religious test shall ever be required as qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."
That’s why, because this was happening in the Senate Judiciary Committee, in January, I lead a charge on the floor to push through a resolution to reaffirm our oath of office to a Constitution that rejects religious bigotry. I called on every member of this body to affirm that we respect the freedom of every American to worship as he or she sees fit, and to live out their faith in the public square. Fortunately, the federal government, and politics more broadly, is not in the business of trying to resolve questions of Heaven and Hell. That’s not what we use politics for in this country. Here, we’re only in the very this-worldly business of trying to maintain the peace and the public order necessary so that every individual can make their own decisions about ultimate matters, about last things — for themselves, under the dictates of conscience. Not trying to submit to the whims of politicians or political movements.
This is a great American blessing and we need to reaffirm it and we need to reteach it every opportunity.
Happily, the unanimous support for that resolution was an encouraging step. And today, in a few minutes when Brian Buescher is going to be confirmed as a U.S. District Judge for the District of Nebraska, we will see another important step which is a reaffirmation and a confirmation to the American people that people of every faith and of no faith — to Protestants and Catholics, Jews and Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists, agnostics, atheists, and otherwise — that in American, you have a place in the public life of this nation. We do not have to resolve every conflict, even conflicts and arguments and debates about things more important than politics. We don't have to resolve every conflict to agree that we will live peaceably together in this polity.
This should be a reaffirmation of the basic American belief that there is room in this country to disagree.
In fact, so much of what makes this country exceptional is that we do disagree about some of the most important things, some of the ultimate things and yet we do it without severing all the temporal bonds that bring us together as friends, neighbors, citizens, and patriots.
Brian is a good man and I am convinced Brian is going to be a great judge. I suspect that he and many of his fellow of the Knights of Columbus in Omaha are gonna be organizing fish fries together again next spring. And I look forward to joining them at those fish fries.
So I am pleased, today, to celebrate with Brian and his family and the whole state of Nebraska on his confirmation to the federal bench. And I celebrate, too, this victory for a principled American commitment to religious liberty for each and every American.
Background on Religious Test Controversy:
In January, after Senate Judiciary Committee Democrats attacked Mr. Buescher for his membership in the Knights of Columbus, the world’s largest fraternal Catholic service organization, Senator Sasse went to the Senate floor to defend Mr. Buescher. Sasse ultimately led a Senate resolution to reaffirm religious liberty and condemn religious tests for federal officials. The Senate unanimously adopted the resolution.
Background on Judge Buescher:
As the first Nebraskan to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee since the 1970s, Sasse chaired Mr. Buescher's nomination hearing.
Senators Sasse and Fischer recommended Mr. Buescher’s nomination to the President last year.
Judge Buescher is a Nebraska native. He graduated from Sandy Creek High School, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and Georgetown University. He has spent his entire legal career practicing in Nebraska — accruing a broad range of experience from representing Nebraska farmers to protecting victims of domestic violence — and led the agriculture litigation team for Kutak Rock LLP, where he worked in the firm’s Omaha office. Brian is married and the proud father of five children.