Editorial: Don’t hold up confirmation

One of the primary frustrations the public has with the two major political parties is their propensity to put politics ahead of everything else, even if doing so delays progress, risks harm and costs money.

A prime example is the confirmation process of Sam Brownback as ambassador at large for International Religious Freedom. It has been more than four months since Brownback was appointed by the Trump Administration to serve in the position, yet he still has not been confirmed. That has left a leadership void in Kansas with fewer than six weeks until the 2018 legislative session begins.

Brownback’s nomination has cleared the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. But Senate Democrats, who could have consented to Brownback’s confirmation, instead are insisting on a floor vote to try to block it.

Democrats say they are opposed to Brownback’s stances on LGBT rights, but their opposition feels like little more than a political stunt meant to embarrass the Kansas governor and by extension Trump.

In his new role, Brownback will be responsible for promoting religious freedom as a core objective of U.S. foreign policy. According to the Department of State, the Office of International Religious Freedom monitors religious persecution and discrimination worldwide, recommends and implements policies and develops programs to promote religious freedom.

As a congressman, and senator, Brownback championed religious freedom and humanitarian causes. His nomination has been praised by people on both sides of the aisle, including the predecessor in the religious freedom position, David Saperstein, who was nominated by Barack Obama.

The reality is Republicans have the votes to confirm Brownback, if the confirmation gets to the Senate floor.

Kansas residents are the losers in this process. Given his lame duck status, Brownback has tried to hand over much of the state’s leadership to Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who will seek a full four-year term as governor in next year’s election.

Colyer is in an awkward position. He has been reluctant to speak out on policy issues while Brownback is still in office. Yet Colyer, who is running for governor in 2018, most likely will be the governor for the 2018 session. Brownback said Colyer has taken a leading role in crafting the budget proposal that the administration will present during the session.

Brownback’s confirmation is the wrong fight for Senate Democrats to pick. They should abandon their opposition so that Brownback can get started in his new role and Kansas residents can embrace new leadership ahead of the 2018 session.