Senator Ben Sasse (R., Neb.) and Senator Chris Murphy (D., Conn.) tangled in an angry exchange on the floor of the upper chamber of Congress on Thursday.
It began with a speech by Sasse in which he noted a tweet from Murphy taking aim at the Nebraska senator, among other Republicans, for voting against the $1.5 trillion omnibus package that included $13.6 billion in aid for Ukraine.
Sasse expressed frustration with the fact that a bill providing emergency aid to Ukraine was not passed sooner on its own instead of being tacked on to the enormous omnibus package last week, and he justified his vote on that basis.
“We spent 13 billion dollars on Ukrainian aid out of a total appropriations package of $1.5 trillion. So for those of you doing math at home, that’s less than 1 percent of what we passed in the middle of the night last week that was actually Ukrainian aid,” explained Sasse.
“Ukrainian aid was a little bit of sugar on the larger medicine of a $1.5 trillion bill,” he added.
Murphy’s implication that Republicans were registering their opposition to the aid within the large bill represented, according to Sasse, an attempt to “bully the other side.”
Sasse continued on with a denunciation of politicians who provide fan-service to a narrow slice of the populace to the detriment of the American people and their governing institutions, using Murphy’s tweet as a prime example. He explained the purpose of the speech by observing that “if you allow liars to constantly lie, and they can get away with it, then they just keep doing it.”
Murphy began his response by wondering aloud if Sasse had broken Senate rules by accusing him of “tribal hackery” in a chart that stood beside Sasse as he delivered his speech and complaining that Republicans often fail to “cast their vote in a way that is aligned with their voice.”
He called it “concerning” that Republicans voted against the omnibus while critiquing the Biden administration for not doing enough for Ukraine because it reflected the more general “lack of interest in compromise” that he characterized as “a fealty to the perfect and an antagonism to the good” in the Senate’s culture.
Sasse jumped in to ask Murphy a direct question: “Do you believe that the people who voted against it [the omnibus bill], voted against it because they were against Ukrainian aid?”
“Every one of us approaches a big-” replied Murphy before being cut off.
“I’m asking a really simple question,” said Sasse. “Do you think that a single person that your Twitter self-pleasuring was for, do you think a single person that voted against it, voted against it because they were against Ukrainian aid?”
“Absolutely not,” said Murphy.
“Then what’s the point of the tweet?” asked Sasse.
Murphy reiterated his point about there not being enough compromise in the institution.
At that point, Sasse separated the debate into being about three issues: Ukrainian aid, the budget process, and grandstanding. He noted that the real conflict between Murphy and himself was the third, and argued that “the Republic got dumber” as a consequence of the Connecticut senator’s misleading tweet.
“I think it’s convenient for Republicans to consistently eviscerate the president for his conduct, but then not be willing to cast the difficult votes necessary to help the president effectuate a policy there,” said Murphy, who argued that the omnibus was the “only” way the Senate could have provided funds to Ukraine.
Sasse called passing the omnibus or sending no aid to Ukraine a “false choice,” and Murphy defended it by saying there while there were infinite other options, Sasse’s choice was “convenient” given the fact that that was the option on the table, though he agreed that the budget process was dysfunctional. While he never apologized for his tweet, Murphy did say that he would “take the senator’s words seriously and try to raise it in a way that is constructive” in the future.
Sasse closed out the exchange by agreeing that there’s rampant grandstanding on both sides of the partisan aisle, agreeing that the Biden administration is willing to spend money on Ukrainian aid, and restating his frustration with the budget process.
The testy argument between the two senators functioned as a direct back-and-forth for much of its duration, in defiance of Senate rules.
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