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 TrumpRussia's election interference is a problem for the GOP Pence to pitch trade deal during trip to Michigan: report Iran oil minister: US made 'bad mistake' in ending sanctions waivers 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 CorkerPollster says Trump unlikely to face 'significant' primary challenge GOP gets used to saying 'no' to Trump Democrats introduce bill to rein in Trump on tariffs MORE (R-Tenn.) at Davos and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainIf you don't think illegal immigrants are voting for president, think again 10 factors making Russia election interference the most enduring scandal of the Obama era Earth Day founder's daughter: Most Republican leaders believe in climate change in private 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) MenendezWe can accelerate a cure for Alzheimer's The Hill's 12:30 Report: Manafort sentenced to total of 7.5 years in prison Acting Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange 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In 2015, he repealed an order from then-Democratic Gov.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 SebeliusKansas Senate race splits wide open without Pompeo Is a presidential appointment worth the risk? New Dem Kansas gov reinstates protections for LGBT state employees 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 Roberts Embattled senators fill coffers ahead of 2020 Republicans writing off hard-line DHS candidate The Hill's Morning Report - Trump seeks tougher rules on asylum seekers 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.