Report: Democrats to delay Brownback nomination

Samuel Brownback, governor of Kansas and a former U.S. senator, appears before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as the nominee to be the United States Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Oct. 4, 2017. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Democrats in the U.S. Senate plan to use procedural moves to delay a vote on Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s appointment to a diplomatic post, citing his record on gay rights, according to a published report.

The report by the Washington bureau of McClatchy, parent company of the Kansas City Star and Wichita Eagle, cited a Democratic aide as saying Democrats would force Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to take extra steps to get Brownback confirmed for the job of Ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom in the Trump administration.

That could complicate issues in the Kansas Statehouse, where Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer has been preparing to take over as governor in advance of the 2018 legislative session, which begins in January. Between now and then, the governor’s office needs to prepare budget proposals and other legislative initiatives for lawmakers to consider during the session.

Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., R-Olathe, did not express concern about the delay when told about the report.

“We have issues here in Kansas to deal with, and what the Democrats do in D.C. is their business. You would think they’d give the same courtesy they gave to Kathleen Sebelius,” he said, referring to the former Democratic governor who served as Health and Human Services Secretary in the Obama administration.

Kansas House Minority Leader Jim Ward of Wichita, however, said Democrats have a right to object to the nomination.

“I think you should, as a minority party, raise the concerns about the appointments as you see appropriate, and they had the information before them,” he said.

During his confirmation hearing Oct. 4, Brownback faced tough questions from Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va., over his 2015 executive order rescinding workplace protections for LGBT state employees in the executive branch, a policy that had been put in place by Sebelius.

Kaine pointed out that in many parts of the world, gays and lesbians can be imprisoned, or even executed, on the basis of religious laws.

Brownback said his decision to repeal Sebelius’ executive order was based on his belief that it was an issue on which the Legislature needed to act.

“That was an order that created a right by the executive branch that wasn’t available to other people and it wasn’t passed by the legislative branch,” Brownback said in response to Kaine’s question. “I believe those sorts of issues should be passed by the legislative branch.”

Colyer’s spokeswoman Kara Fullmer declined to comment on how a delay in Brownback’s confirmation might affect the transition.

“At this point, it doesn’t really help to speculate,” she said in an email. “Timing on the confirmation vote is a matter for the Senate to decide. Lt. Governor Colyer is prepared to take the helm in Kansas whenever Gov. Brownback is confirmed.”