Gov. Sam Brownback is another step closer to leaving Kansas and joining the Trump administration.
His nomination to become ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom once again had to go through the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Thursday, where he was approved.
But confirmation by the full Senate still awaits.
He had already been approved by the committee last year, when he scraped by on an 11-10 party line vote. But because of inaction, once his nomination made it to the full Senate, Brownback has had to essentially restart the nomination process. He was renominated by Trump earlier this month.
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“I’m just not going to comment,” Brownback said when asked by a McClatchy reporter about a timeline for his confirmation this week before the committee vote.
After the vote Thursday, Brownback tweeted his thanks to the committee for approving his nomination.
President Donald Trump first nominated Brownback for the ambassadorship in July.
Brownback hoped to win full Senate confirmation by the end of the year and began to publicly discuss ceding power to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.
Brownback said late last year that Colyer would take the lead on developing the budget proposal, and soon after it was Colyer, not Brownback, who announced a Cabinet appointment.
But the Senate failed to vote on Brownback by year’s end, and his nomination was returned to the White House.
The chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker, said earlier this week that he hoped over the next 30 days he’d be able to get Brownback out of the Senate.
“I think the leader wants to; he understands the dilemma he’s in,” Corker said. “He’s governor of a state and, is he governor? Is he ambassador?”
Senator Bob Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat on the committee, said he could not support Brownback and opposed his nomination in the vote held last year.
“I like Sam on a personal basis, but that he could not bring himself to say nobody should be persecuted because of their sexual orientation,” he said, “is not acceptable for someone who we want to make the ambassador at large in terms of religious persecution.”
Despite pushback, committee chairman Corker said he is confident Brownback will pass the full Senate vote and fairly do his job.
“In spite of the fact he had difficulties responding to good questioning by other senators, I think he will carry out his duties… in the appropriate manner as it relates to people of all races and persuasions,” Corker said.
“It’ll pass,” he said. “I think the Democrats acknowledge it will pass. It’s a 51 vote threshold.”
After his nomination was returned to the White House, Brownback made it clear that he will remain governor until he wins confirmation.
Brownback’s political limbo comes at a time of controversy for President Trump.
The Trump White House has come under fire in recent days over reports of the president’s comments tied to immigration.
The Washington Post reported last week that Trump became frustrated during an Oval Office meeting with lawmakers where immigration was discussed.
“Why are we having all these people from shithole countries come here?” Trump said, according to The Washington Post report.
When asked about the reports over Trump’s comment, Brownback told McClatchy, “Let’s see what really was said.”
Colyer, who has continued to publicly wait to become governor, said he believes the Senate will act in the next few weeks.
He said Thursday morning before the vote that if the Senate committee approved the governor, then “we’re back at the same position that we were before Christmas.”