Brownback still optimistic about diplomatic post

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback answers questions during an interview with The Associated Press, Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, in his Statehouse office, in Topeka, Kan. Brownback says he's not resigning before he's confirmed to an ambassador's post by the U.S. Senate and will give the next State of the State address. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday that he was still optimistic that his nomination to a diplomatic post in the Trump administration would be resubmitted to the U.S. Senate and that he would eventually be confirmed, although the White House has not yet made an announcement.

Asked during an impromptu news conference in the Statehouse whether he had heard when, or whether President Trump would resubmit his nomination, Brownback said, “Yes, but I’m not at liberty to announce.”

“It is my understanding that, yes, that will happen,” he added. “I think it’s going to be soon, but the president’s office, they have to announce.”

Brownback was nominated to be U.S. ambassador-at-large for International Religious Freedom back in July. But during a confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in October, a number of Democrats expressed concern over his record on gay rights, particularly his decision in 2015 to repeal an executive order signed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, prohibiting job discrimination in executive branch agencies based on sexual orientation or sexual identity.

His nomination passed out of the committee narrowly, on an 11-10 party-line vote. But because of the objections from Democrats, the full Senate did not take a vote to confirm him before adjourning its 2017 session. Under Senate rules, that sent his nomination, along with about 130 others, back to the White House, which is expected to resubmit them during the new session.

Brownback, a former senator himself, said he wasn’t surprised that the Senate sent back so many nominations at the end of the session, given the schedule the Senate was under.

“What they had to get done, they did get done, which is the tax bill,” he said. “And they got it done, they got it through, and at that point in time everybody’s nerves are frayed and people’s attitudes of cooperation were diminished.”

“I have been talking with the parliamentarian’s office,” he added. “I believe I’m going to be confirmed, and fairly soon. But this is the Senate, and this is a difficult time.”

Brownback has said he would resign the governor’s office once confirmed but not before. As a result of the delay, however, he will deliver the State of the State address on Tuesday, and the budget plan being submitted to the Legislature is largely his work.