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 TrumpAverage tax refunds down double-digits, IRS data shows White House warns Maduro as Venezuela orders partial closure of border with Colombia Trump administration directs 1,000 more troops to Mexican border 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

With Sen. Bob CorkerRobert (Bob) Phillips CorkerSasse’s jabs at Trump spark talk of primary challenger RNC votes to give Trump 'undivided support' ahead of 2020 Sen. Risch has unique chance to guide Trump on foreign policy MORE (R-Tenn.) at Davos and Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainGabbard hits back at Meghan McCain after fight over Assad Mellman: Where are good faith and integrity? GOP senator says Republicans didn't control Senate when they held majority 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) MenendezActing Defense chief calls Graham an 'ally' after tense exchange William Barr is right man for the times This week: Trump delivers State of the Union amid wall fight 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In 2015, he repealed an order from then-Democratic Gov.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 SebeliusIs a presidential appointment worth the risk? New Dem Kansas gov reinstates protections for LGBT state employees Next Kansas governor to reinstate LGBT protections for state workers 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 RobertsPompeo says he's 'ruled out' 2020 Kansas Senate run GOP senators offer praise for Klobuchar: 'She’s the whole package' The Hill's Morning Report - House Dems prepare to swamp Trump with investigations 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.