By Dan Gilgoff, God & Country
How to explain ardently antiabortion Kansas Sen. Sam Brownback's early support for Kathleen Sebelius, an ardent abortion rights supporter and a fellow Kansan, to head the Department of Health and Human Services? Kansas courtesy—and the fact that Barack Obama won in November and gets to appoint whom he wants. At least that's what the senator is saying publicly.
But two sources tell me that Brownback's people have been making the case to antiabortion groups—especially those in Kansas—that there's a strong political rationale for installing the Kansas governor in Washington. The move gets her out of Kansas, Brownback's argument goes, heading off her expected run for the Senate in 2010. Which means the Sunflower State Senate seat that Brownback's vacating for a gubernatorial run is likely to stay in Republican hands, since the Kansas Democratic Party doesn't have another candidate who is half as popular as Sebelius. And that's good for the antiabortion cause, according to the reasoning.
"It was much more important that the Senate seat remain red than it was that Brownback directly oppose Sebelius at HHS," says one person familiar with the situation who would only speak anonymously, "given that Obama is going to be driving the HHS agenda regardless of who's in charge."
A second source, Family Research Council Action lobbyist Tom McClusky, told me today that he's now heard Brownback's argument for backing Sebelius from a half-dozen Republican senators. But that doesn't mean antiabortion groups support the plan. "It's wrong on two counts," McClusky tells me. "They're putting politics before policy. And secondly, the Republicans are trying to predict an election two years out, which is impossible."