Democrats in the U.S. Senate should end their obstructionism and allow an up-or-down vote on Gov. Sam Brownback’s nomination to serve as the ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
That does not appear to be the minority party’s current plan, a Senate staff member told The Star this week. Instead, Democratic leadership is expected to use procedural roadblocks — of which there are many — to stall a floor vote on the nomination.
Democrats are concerned with Brownback’s record on gay rights. As governor, Brownback signed an executive order rescinding job protections for state workers who identify as gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender.
We share their concern. Brownback’s decision was wrong.
But stalling the nomination to score political points is problematic in several ways.
The first is fundamental, and moral. Violent religious persecution remains a tragic fact of life across the globe, and the United States must do what it can to put a stop to it. The ambassador for religious freedom is in the best position to lead that effort.
The job should be filled as quickly as possible.
The other problems are more practical.
Delaying the Brownback vote won’t change the governor’s views on protections for gay and lesbian state employees. That means Senate obstructionism won’t change policy in Kansas.
The next governor and the state Legislature should restore those protections. That task will be harder, though, if Kansans believe Senate Democrats are inappropriately intervening in a state decision.
A delay also leaves Kansas stuck in a strange limbo between a departing governor and his replacement.
Kansas has serious challenges — a looming crisis over schools, a still-squeezed budget and deteriorating public services. The state deserves to know who is leading the executive branch. It’s wrong to ask Kansans to endure uncertainty just so national Democrats can make a point.
There’s a better way: Bring the nomination to the floor, where Democrats can vote against it. If they can convince three Republicans to join them, Brownback will not be confirmed. That’s how representative, constitutional government is supposed to work.
The Senate has plenty on its plate: war, tax reform, trade, immigration, the budget, infrastructure, health care, Russian election influence and more.
Delaying a vote on Brownback distracts from those challenges, hurts Kansans and doesn’t help the cause of gay rights.
End the roadblocks, Senate Democrats. It’s time to vote.