Senate confirms Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to position in Trump administration

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The U.S. Senate confirmed Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback to a position in the Trump administration. 

Brownback will serve as the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom. 

Following the confirmation, Brownback said he was delighted about the news.

“It's a key post. It's an important one. I'm looking forward to getting to work,” he explained. “It's been a great honor to serve this state.”

He also tweeted about the confirmation Wednesday evening: 

On Wednesday, the vote to limit debate on Brownback’s nomination was a 49-49 tie. Vice President Mike Pence came to the floor to break the tie and voted in favor of Brownback’s nomination. 

Thursday, Gov. Brownback announced he would be resigning from his position on Jan. 31, tweeting "It has been a great honor to serve and represent Kansans for most of my adult life."

Brownback was first nominated for the ambassador post in July 2017. 

In October 2017, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations approved Brownback’s nomination by an 11 to 10 vote. The vote advanced the nomination to the full Senate. 

But the nomination didn’t make it to the Senate floor before the end of the year. Senate rules require an appointee who hasn’t received a confirmation vote by the end of the year to be nominated again. 

Earlier in January, Brownback’s nomination for the ambassador post was resubmitted to the Senate. 

Brownback’s confirmation now clears the path for Lieutenant Governor Jeff Colyer to be the next leader of Kansas.

Following the confirmation on Wednesday, Colyer said he already had goals in mind for when he takes office.

“Listen and work with Kansans,” he said to 41 Action News. “We're going to be working on changing the tone. We've got some difficult issues to deal with and we're going to deal with them."

The state budget and school funding will be two of the primary issues Colyer must face when he becomes governor.

On Wednesday, he said he was looking forward to working with other state leaders on finding solutions.

“If we get our act together and if we are pretty solid on this, I think Kansas can grow,” he explained. “We can be in a good place."

State leaders who spoke to 41 Action News on Wednesday said questions over Brownback’s confirmation and who would formally serve as governor have led to a slow legislative session so far this year.

“Certainly for the ripple effect, not knowing whose been in charge of our executive branch has been a little disconcerting,” explained State Sen. David Haley (D-Kansas City). “There's been a lot of uncertainty." 

State leaders also said they were looking forward to working more with Colyer in the future.

“Hopefully, he's going to be more interactive and we're going to have more of a voice at least talking with him,” said State Sen. John Skubal (R-Johnson County). “That's my hope is that he talks with our leadership and gives us some direction rather than trying to figure that out ourselves."

With Colyer now set to take office, the Lt. Governor shared with 41 Action News the advice Brownback offered to him on Wednesday.

“Be yourself. Be a surgeon. Be a doctor,” Colyer explained. “There's a little bit of healing to do. I think we're going to move forward very smartly over the next few months." 

A timetable for Governor Brownback’s resignation is still unknown.

His office expects to make an announcement regarding his future on Thursday morning.

Sen. Jerry Moran released the following statement after Brownback's nomination was confirmed: 

“Governor Brownback has long demonstrated his commitment to promoting the freedom of all to practice the religion of their choice. He will now be in a position to continue this important work as our Ambassador-at-Large for Religious Freedom. The governor has been a dedicated public servant for many years and it was a privilege to support his nomination today.”

Sen. Pat Roberts released the following statement: 

“Sam Brownback has always been called to fight for those of all faiths,” said Roberts. “I am glad he now has the opportunity to lead our nation’s efforts in promoting religious tolerance and fighting against religious prosecution and discrimination. His personal and professional commitment to fighting for religious freedom will make him an excellent Ambassador. I thank him for his service to Kansas, and I wish him the best in this next chapter of public service.”  

U.S. Rep. Lynn Jenkins released the following statement:

“At a time when people of faith are under threat around the globe, there are few people who come to mind with more experience to lead on religious freedom than Sam Brownback. It has been a pleasure to serve Kansans alongside him and I wish Sam, Mary, and their entire family well as they continue to serve our great nation.”

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