TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback thanked former congressional colleagues Friday for nudging the U.S. Senate hard enough to move on his nomination to be President Donald Trump’s ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.
Brownback, who has awaited this moment since being nominated in July, said he appreciated “hard work” of Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Kansas Sens. Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts to trigger preliminary action on the Senate floor.
“Pleased that the U.S. Senate is moving forward with my nomination,” the Republican governor said.
Brownback’s nomination is expected to be put to a cloture vote Friday — earlier, if Democrats don’t object — to set the stage for a final decision by the Senate. With 51 Republicans and 49 Democrats, a party-line vote in the Senate would assure confirmation of Brownback.
However, Brownback’s nomination could be derailed if two GOP senators vote against him with all Democratic members. Senate Democrats delayed consideration of Trump’s nominee due to concerns about Brownback’s rigid opposition to gay rights.
If affirmed by the Senate, Brownback said he would resign as governor to begin duties in the U.S. Department of State.
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, who is campaigning for the 2018 GOP nomination for governor, would replace Brownback. Colyer is a Johnson County physician and former state legislator who ran on the ticket with Brownback in 2010 and for re-election in 2014.
Moran, who replaced Brownback in the U.S. Senate, presided over the chamber in Washington, D.C., for the quick vote on the preliminary procedure related to the nomination.
“It is a privilege to preside over the Senate this afternoon when cloture was filed,” Moran said.
Brownback could follow in the footsteps of former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, who resigned during her second term as governor to serve President Barack Obama as secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.