By Mitch Smith – The New York Times
Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas was narrowly confirmed to an ambassadorship on Wednesday after a six-month wait that left Kansans increasingly confused about who was in charge of their state.
The Senate split 49-49 along party lines on the nomination of Mr. Brownback, a Republican who has grown unpopular in Kansas, to be ambassador at large for international religious freedom. Vice President Mike Pence cast the tiebreaking vote.
Many religious leaders praised Mr. Brownback’s confirmation, and said he could use his political experience to help religious minorities, including oppressed Christian and Yazidi communities in the Middle East.
Thank you to @POTUS, @VP, and all the Senators who supported my nomination. I’m looking forward to starting my new position as Ambassador and working hard for the American people and religious freedom around the world. #ksleg 3:04 PM – Jan 24, 2018 · Topeka, KS 189 178 495
Sam Brownback @govsambrownback
“He has been a consistent, vocal, competent and impassioned advocate for these issues,” said the Rev. Johnnie Moore, a Southern Baptist minister who served on the evangelical advisory board for President Trump’s campaign. “It was all very logical to us that he would be the nominee, and we were thrilled by it.”
Many Democrats and gay rights advocates opposed the nomination of Mr. Brownback, who ended anti-discrimination protections for gay state workers in 2015.
Once again: Gov. Brownback is about to become an international ambassador for “religious freedom”. He has refused to condemn anti-#LGBTQ laws, including those with death penalty sentences. “Concerning” is an understatement. pic.twitter.com/TOlHUpF6eb
Lambda Legal @LambdaLegal
Oh yeah, and in his fifth year as Governor of Kansas, Brownback rescinded anti-discrimination protections for #LGBTQ state employees.
With his confirmation as international ambassador, it is clear @realDonaldTrump & @VP Mike Pence are preparing to export their hateful agenda. 1:21 PM – Jan 24, 2018 3 19 29
20hLambda Legal @LambdaLegal Replying to @LambdaLegal
Mr. Brownback, who served seven years as governor after stints in both chambers of Congress, drew national attention to Kansas after he oversaw the largest income tax cuts in state history. But the missed revenue forecasts and wholesale cuts to state services that followed led many legislative Republicans to buck Mr. Brownback and undo his signature policy last year.
Mr. Brownback, whose term would have ended next January, was passed over for more prominent jobs in the Trump administration. When he was nominated for the religious freedom ambassadorship last summer, many expected a swift confirmation.
Mr. Brownback began handing off tasks to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer after he was nominated, but month after awkward month passed in Topeka without a confirmation vote. Mr. Trump had to renominate Mr. Brownback this month after the full Senate declined to vote last year.
“Our state’s been in kind of a leadership vacuum of chaos,” said Jim Ward, the Democratic leader in the Kansas House of Representatives and a candidate for governor. “It’s really slowed down and pretty much stopped all progress on any kind of policy because you’ve got two different guys acting like the governor.”
Mr. Brownback announced on Thursday that he will resign as governor next week, on Wednesday. “Wherever my new duties may take me, my Kansas values and experience will always travel with me,” he wrote in his resignation letter.
Mr. Colyer, a Republican and a plastic surgeon from suburban Kansas City, will assume the governorship. Mr. Colyer, who is seeking a full term as governor in the election this year, will face several challengers in the Republican primary.
Photo Credit: Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback delivers his State of the State speech to an annual joint session of the House and Senate at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan., Jan. 15, 2014. Photo by Orlin Wagner/AP