Pence breaks tie to confirm Trump's pick for religious ambassador

Vice President Pence broke a tie Wednesday to confirm Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) to be President TrumpDonald John TrumpDC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' DC board rejects Trump Hotel effort to dismiss complaint seeking removal of liquor license on basis of Trump's 'character' Mexico's immigration chief resigns amid US pressure over migrants MORE's ambassador-at-large for international religious freedom.

The 49-49 vote marked the second time within hours that Pence was called in to help get Brownback through the chamber. He also broke a tie earlier Wednesday to end debate on the nomination.

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With Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerPress: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Press: How 'Nervous Nancy' trumped Trump Amash gets standing ovation at first town hall after calling for Trump's impeachment MORE (R-Tenn.) at Davos and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCain#JohnMcCainDay trends on Trump's 73rd birthday #JohnMcCainDay trends on Trump's 73rd birthday New poll finds little GOP support for spending cuts to specific federal programs MORE (R-Ariz.) battling brain cancer, Senate Republicans effectively have a 49-49 majority until one of the senators returns.

The vote marks the eighth tie-breaking vote Pence has cast since taking over the vice presidential spot. By comparison, then-Vice President Biden cast zero tie-breaking votes, while then-Vice President Cheney cast eight over two terms in office.

The two votes on Brownback split down party lines, with every Republican supporting him and every Democrat opposing him.

Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezThere is a severe physician shortage and it will only worsen Democrats ask Fed to probe Trump's Deutsche Bank ties Ending the Cyprus arms embargo will increase tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean MORE (D-N.J.) said he didn't take his vote against a former colleague, who served in the chamber for more than a decade, lightly.

"I cannot in good faith support the confirmation of someone as ambassador-at-large for religious freedom who does not believe that all individuals are created equally in God's image," he said.

He added that "as much as I know the people of Kansas wish to see Gov. Brownback sent abroad and out of their state, I cannot support his confirmation today."

Democrats have knocked Brownback over his record in Kansas on LGBT issues.

In 2015, he repealed an order from then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen SebeliusKathleen SebeliusFederal investigators concluded Ryan Zinke's MAGA socks violated Hatch Act Federal investigators concluded Ryan Zinke's MAGA socks violated Hatch Act Kansas Senate race splits wide open without Pompeo MORE on discrimination protections for LGBT individuals, arguing the former governor hadn't gotten approval from the legislature.

But Brownback was expected to be approved after Republicans lined up behind his nomination.

Sen. Pat RobertsCharles (Pat) Patrick RobertsEPA exempts farms from reporting pollution tied to animal waste EPA exempts farms from reporting pollution tied to animal waste Conservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries MORE (R-Kan.) told WIBW, a local Kansas TV station, earlier this month that he expected the GOP governor would be quickly confirmed.

"Sam was just back in Washington here yesterday and the day before talking to the president about prison reform, and talking to him and talking to some people that may have some concerns. I think we're going to get him a vote and I hope that happens very quickly," he said.

Brownback, a devout Catholic, would be the fifth person to run the State Department's Office of International Religious Freedom.

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.