The nomination of Gov. Sam Brownback as U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom has been stuck in limbo for more than a month now.
That has real-world consequences, both for persecuted religious minorities around the world and for the long-suffering state of Kansas. (And you do remember Kansas, right Governor?)
With Brownback’s bags packed for a while now, as he forks over major pieces of his gubernatorial portfolio to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer — who in essence now has the job, but without the full authority of the office — the situation is growing untenable.
In Washington, Democrats oppose the nomination over Brownback’s record on LGBT rights, in particular his 2015 executive order rescinding a previous order that protected state employees from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. But unless some Republican votes aren’t there for Brownback, either, why hasn’t it been put on the calendar for a vote?
Yes, the party is busy trying to push through a tax bill before the end of the year. And maybe the ghost of Brownback’s tax-cut debacle in Kansas isn’t one Republicans want floating around Congress while they do that.
But there’s also some concern about potential GOP defections, and it would only take three of those to kill the nomination.
A spokeswoman for the governor said things are just going slowly because the nomination is “on Senate time. Lots and lots of things have been delayed. He’s pretty used to the process, having worked there.” But if he’s not frustrated, we are. And alas, being “used to the process” didn’t prevent even some GOP irritation that Brownback seemed more blindsided than he should have been by tough but completely predictable questions about his record on LGBT rights and more at his Oct. 4 confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If he thought he’d get special treatment as a former member of the club, well, that’s not how it worked out. Instead, he came off as unprepared.
At that same hearing, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio spoke of the “urgent need” to fill the ambassador’s position for which Brownback has been nominated by President Donald Trump. Rubio was talking, of course, about the Rohingya Muslims forced to flee Myanmar, some of the world’s oldest Christian communities on the verge of extinction in the Middle East, China shutting down underground churches, and on and on. That’s truer every day, even as the U.S. State Department missed its legal deadline for designating the latest “countries of particular concern” as violators of religious freedom. But again, it’s also an urgent matter right here in Kansas.
Colyer is now in charge of the budget and is making appointments, and as soon as possible, he will need to get to work on the school finance crisis and on repairing the damage done by Brownback’s tax cuts.
If the current governor’s new post doesn’t come through by the end of the year, we hope he will either withdraw from consideration or better yet, step aside at home, where his constituents need a full-time, all-in chief executive.