Sen. Sasse: Virginia Gov. Northam is 'a creep' with 'no regard for human dignity'

shutterstock 1219996768 Senator Ben Sasse, who introduced the resolution in the Senate, pictured at the National Press Club, Oct. 2018. | Albert H. Teich / Shutterstock

Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NE) told CNA that he thinks that embattled Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam (D), should step down from office or face a bipartisan-led recall campaign.

Northam has been the subject of sustained criticism following his public defense of a proposed bill to allow in-labor abortions in the state. On Friday, a photograph from his 1984 medical school yearbook was published, which identified Northam as one of two figures: one wearing blackface costume and the other Ku Klux Klan robes.

In a Friday interview with CNA Sasse, said that, following his comments on abortion, the photograph was yet another sign that Northam had "no regard for human dignity."

"Thirty-five years before he was defending infanticide it looks like he was in a racist photo," Sasse told CNA. "This guy is a creep, and it's inexcusable."

While many prominent Democrats declined to comment on Northam's support for the abortion bill, members of his own party have joined calls for his resignation, including his predecessor as governor, Terry McAuliffe, along with Senators Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Kamala Harris (D-CA).

"If he still has a job on Monday morning, I think Republicans and Democrats should be working together in Virginia to get signatures for a recall petition," said Sasse.

Northam issued an apology Friday evening for the picture, saying he was "deeply sorry." He also said that in his comments on WTOP, he was referring to babies who were born with deformities.

While many are now speculating that Northam could resign as early as this weekend, Sasse told CNA that his unfitness for public life is apparent from his abortion comments alone.

"Gov. Northam's comments [on the Virginia abortion bill] were essentially a defense of the idea that after a baby is born and she's alive and on that table, doctors would, bizarrely, keep her warm and give her a little bit of comfort while there was a debating society conversation about whether or not infanticide was appropriate for this moment," said Sasse.

On Wednesday, Northam spoke on radio station WTOP in favor of the Repeal Act, a bill that would have relaxed laws regarding third-trimester abortions. The bill's lead sponsor, Del. Kathy Tran (D-Fairfax) admitted that there was nothing in her bill that would prevent an abortion from being carried out while a mother was in active labor.

When questioned about this provision in the bill, Northam said that such a case would see the newborn infant be given "comfort care" while a discussion ensued about whether or not to pursue medical intervention. The bill eventually was tabled.

Sasse described Northam's comments as "crazy" and told CNA they are an indication that Northam "shouldn't be in public life."

The new congressional session has seen Sasse take a leading role on the issues of religious liberty and the defense of the unborn.

In December, Sens. Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI) questioned a judicial nominee from Omaha about his membership in the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organisation, suggesting his membership could disqualify him as a judge.

In response, Sasse submitted a unanimous consent resolution in January defending the group and underscoring the constitutional prohibition of "religious tests" being imposed on candidates for public office. This measure was passed, though Hirono called it an "alt-right" agenda.

Sasse, who is not Catholic, told CNA that he was inspired to write the resolution by the oath of office he swore to defend the Constitution, which forbids religious tests, and that he feels the oppression of any religious group is "a sign that everybody's religious liberty is at risk."

Additionally, he added, "I represent a whole bunch of Catholics."

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Nebraska is nearly one-quarter Catholic.

The Knights of Columbus does "unbelievable good work on behalf of their neighbors," Sasse said. The senator characterized the questions from Harris and Hirono as an attempt to "institute a religious test for being a judge," which is "an attack on people in my state."

After the resolution passed, Hirono said that Sasse was "embracing" an "alt-right position" with his resolution--something the Nebraska senator said was "crazy stuff" and "absolutely" an act of cowardice.

"It is truly bizarre for her to double down and now try to call Catholics racist because they're exercising a constitutional right to love their neighbor," he said.

Sasse said it is notable that Hirono did not take the floor to object to his resolution when it was being considered, and instead took to the Senate floor "when nobody else was back in town."

"[Hirono] made this bizarre speech implying that people in the Knights of Columbus are not just religiously bigoted, but also racist--I don't know how to make any sense of the kind of stuff she's saying, but she didn't come to the floor and say it in front of her colleagues," said Sasse.

"I'd love it if she would."

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"These people need to check their consciences. We believe the reason you're in public life is to maintain a framework of ordered liberty and to celebrate human dignity. That's what American public life is about," Sasse added.

"The laws exist to protect the most vulnerable among us, and then people can go out and love their neighbor and serve in their community and join the Knights of Columbus and be entrepreneurs and invite people to your church or synagogue. That's what America is about, and you have to start with a clear understanding of defending human dignity, and that starts first and foremost with defending the most vulnerable"

On Monday, Sasse will attempt to get another bill passed by unanimous consent: the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act. This bill would penalize doctors and medical professionals who do not provide medical care to infants who survive abortions.

"I don't think there's any legitimate argument that can be made to oppose my legislation," Sasse told CNA. While he hopes that none of his colleagues will object to his bill, if they do, he said, they should "do it in front of the 320 million Americans that are their bosses."

"And they need to show what side they're on. It's a pretty simple question: are you on the side of these vulnerable little babies, or are you on the side of Gov. Northam and his defense of infanticide?"

Sasse told CNA that it is clear where he stands.

"We believe," he said, "in the dignity of everybody."

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