Trump to nominate Brownback for religious ambassador post

Trump to nominate Brownback for religious ambassador post
© Greg Nash
The White House said late Wednesday that President Trump will nominate Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) to serve as ambassador at-large for international religious freedom.
Brownback, a devout Catholic, would be the fifth person to run the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom — an office first created by legislation Brownback sponsored when he was a member of the Senate back in 1998.
"Religious Freedom is the first freedom. The choice of what you do with your own soul. I am honored to serve such an important cause," Brownback wrote on Twitter Wednesday night.
Conservative groups praised the pick. 
"He is an ideal choice for this important post as a champion of religious freedom for all — fair-minded, compassionate, faith-filled and eloquent," said Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the education arm of the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony List.
Brownback would be the second person to run the office who was not previously a member of the clergy. John Hanford, who ran the office under President George W. Bush, was a Presbyterian minister. President Obama nominated a Baptist pastor and a rabbi to head the office.
Brownback won election to the Senate in 1996, when he defeated Sen. Sheila Frahm in a Republican primary, after serving a single term in the House. He was one of the more conservative members of the Senate, and in 2007 he made a brief run for president before dropping out due to lack of funds.
The Kansas Republican left Washington in 2010 after winning the governorship of his home state. His two terms have been defined by the steep tax cuts he pushed through his state legislature — and the political backlash after those cuts caused big budget deficits.
The legislature, controlled by Republicans, voted to reinstate many of those taxes Brownback cut earlier this year, overriding the governor's veto.
If confirmed, Brownback would leave the state in the hands of Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (R), who has already been considering his own bid for governor in 2018.
Several other prominent Republicans, including Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach — who heads Trump's election integrity commission — have already declared their own bids for governor.
Brownback would be the third governor to quit his post to take a job in the Trump State Department. Previously, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley (R) left office to become the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad (R) quit to become America's ambassador to China.
— This post was updated at 8:48 p.m.