Kansas governor overcomes Senate opposition with Pence's help
Sam Brownback, the Republican governor of Kansas and a former U.S. senator and presidential hopeful, has been confirmed as U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
Vice President Michael R. Pence cast the tie-breaking vote to seal Brownback’s nomination at 5 o’clock Wednesday afternoon.
Brownback will head the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom that monitors religious freedom abuses throughout the world.
President Donald J. Trump nominated Brownback to the post in July. The governor reportedly faced opposition from Democrats over his stance regarding gays, and the chamber has only a narrow Republican majority.
As governor of Kansas, Brownback rescinded an anti-discrimination protection regulation for LGBT state workers.
Planned Parenthood also urged senators to vote no, calling Brownback an “extreme ideologue” and criticizing his record on women’s health.
No Senate Democrats voted for Brownback, and two Republicans were absent for the vote, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was out for cancer treatment.
Religious freedom advocates hailed Brownback’s record during his 16 years as a member of the U.S. House and Senate. The 21st Century Wilberforce Initiative called Brownback a “Senate leader on international religious freedom, advocating for landmark policy reforms, both domestically and abroad, as well as for prisoners of conscience wrongly incarcerated for their faith.
“He led the effort to enact the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 which was central to the movement to combat human trafficking,” the Wilberforce Initiative said in a statement. “Brownback was actively involved during the Darfur crisis. His travels to that embattled region compelled him to push for a genocide declaration in 2004. He introduced numerous pieces of key human rights legislation, including on North Korea and also Sudan, where he called on the Sudanese government to end slavery, ‘manufactured’ famines, and civilian bombings. Brownback chaired the Senate Foreign Relations Sub-Committee on Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs and co-chaired the U.S. Helsinki Commission.”
“In Sam Brownback, we have a leader who not only understands the intricacies of Capitol Hill, he has a heart and the demonstrated passion for the mission of this office,” said 21Wilberforce Distinguished Senior Fellow Frank Wolf, himself a longtime religious freedom advocate in the House of Representatives.
Helsinki Commission Chairman Sen. Roger Wicker (MS) said in a statement Wednesday that Brownback is “exactly the man we need out there, everywhere, doing this work, right now.
“Radical Islamist terrorists target and kill Christians and people of other faiths to advance their evil ideology, recruiting, and propaganda,” Wicker said. “A robust defense of religious freedom is vital to defeating them. As a member of Congress, most notably as Chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, Brownback tirelessly fought for the religious freedom and human rights of people of all faiths, at home and abroad—especially those suffering in the gulag of North Korea. I commend President Trump on this nomination and look forward to working closely with Governor Brownback to defend religious freedom.”