Will This Catholic Senator Be the Next President? An IgnatiusInsight.com
Interview with Senator Sam Brownback
Will This Catholic Senator Be the Next President? An IgnatiusInsight.com
Interview with Senator Sam Brownback
One of the key figures in the current battle over President George W.
Bushs nomination of Harriet Miers to the U.S. Supreme Court is Kansas
Republican Sen. Sam Brownback. (see
IgnatiusInsight story). A convert to Catholicism, Brownback is considering
a run for the presidency in 2008.
his role on the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Harriet
Miers confirmation hearings, Brownback is the lead sponsor of a Senate
bill to ban human cloning and is heavily involved in projects in Africa.
In addition, Brownback is working on a project that would reward big pharmaceutical
companies for developing cures for Third World diseases by extending the
life of some of their other, lucrative drugs, such as Viagra.
Raised on a family farm near Parker, Kansas, Brownback, 49, lives in Topeka
with his wife and five children. After serving two years in the U.S.
House, Brownback was elected to the Senate in 1996, filling out the term
of Sen. Bob Dole.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Could you give your take on whats happening
with the Supreme Court nomination process regarding Harriet Miers?
Sen. Brownback: Its in the due diligence phase right now. The
members of the Senate have to give advice and consent to the president
and were trying to gather as much information to give a legitimate
bit of advice and consent or not consent. Its really in a fact-gathering
phase right now. Itll go into hearings on November 7th.
I think the hearings will be very important for this nominee. And then
it will move the floor, probably after Thanksgiving.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Is there a chance you will suggest that the President
withdraw Miers as a nominee?
Sen. Brownback: I doubt thats going to happen. Thats not
our role in the process. Its his to nominate and its ours
to vote up or down. And, if the president decides to do that, thats
his call but I really think ours is to just really try to give a fair
appraisal to the nominee.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Have you gotten to a point where you have a strong
feeling either way about Miers?
Sen. Brownback: I dont. I dont have sufficient information
yet and its too early to make that call. We need to see a much fuller
portrait of the candidate before we makebefore I, or othersshould
make that decision.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Princeton University constitutional scholar Robert
George says it is important that when Catholics (or anyone else) is
looking at a nominee, that they see how the nominee views the Constitution.
Is that how you would approach it?
Sen. Brownback: Yes. I think its critical: do they view the
Constitution as a living document? Is it a textual document? What is their
view of judicial restraint, which weve seen precious little of the
last three decades? To me those are both key issues and ones that we should
get a pretty good picture of the nominees view on. That isnt
calling on the nominee to make or prejudge a case, but it should give
us a better idea of how they would serve on the bench.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Georges view is that the President at times
is called to uphold the Constitution in a way that would be in conflict
with the Supreme Court. Do you think that is a possible scenario?
Sen. Brownback: Hmmthat the President would uphold the Constitution
IgnatiusInsight.com: For instance, the Dred Scott
decision was decided before President Lincoln was president but Lincoln
said that the Dred Scott decision was in conflict with the Constitution.
Lincoln said that he, when he was president, would disagree with that
decision because in it the Court said that even free blacks had no right
to be citizens. And in contradiction to the Dred Scott ruling, President
Lincoln issued passports to blacks and gave them other rights as citizens.
Sen. Brownback: Its very interesting because its the sort
of thinga bit of what Reagan did in declaring the personhood of
the unborn. Because the unborn in this society to date we treat as a biological
life but not as a person. And yet you know obviously what the Court has
done is allow the treatment of the child in the womb as property. That
would be a very interesting stance for a president to take in defending
the Constitution. I have to think about that some more. Thats a
IgnatiusInsight.com: You are considering running for president. Have you
formed a (campaign finance) committee?
Sen. Brownback: I have not formed a committee yet. I have made some
initial stops and travels into various states but have not appointed a
formal committee and have not made a final decision.
IgnatiusInsight.com: When do you think you would make a decision?
Sen. Brownback: Sometime next year, I think that would be a proper
time. By the time you get to the midterm cycle, November of 06.
You have your first real test in August of 2007 in the Ames [Iowa] straw
poll. That is one that a lot of people mark off from.
IgnatiusInsight.com: I wanted to ask you about the whole cloning issue.
Would it be fair to say that you are the lead person in the Senate opposing
Sen. Brownback: Yes, there are a number of people who do, but Ive
been the one carrying the bill and have filed the bill to ban
IgnatiusInsight.com: How is it you arrived at your position and decided
it was an important position?
Sen. Brownback: Its life. I believe every life at every stage
should be treated as beautiful, as sacred, as a unique child of the living
God, and should be protected. And I do not think it is right for us to
then create life just to destroy and research on itregardless of
how you create that human life. Theres a sacredness to each and
every life at every stage.
That led to my thoughts and work on cloning but it also led to work in
Africa, in taking care and working on issues in the Sudan, working with
some of the minority communities because each life is sacred and we should
treat it with great dignity. Thats really been the source of that
work and viewpoint. Fortunately weve been provided a great way to
provide cures for people through adult stem cells, or the cord bloodright
now I think were up to about 68 different areas of human maladies
being treated by either cord blood or adult stem cells. Theres no
ethical problem with those. Thousands of patients have been treated thus
far. So we have a good answer and then I think theres a wrong answer.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Can you give some specifics about what you are doing
as far as Africa and minority communities?
Sen. Brownback: Yes, I worked a lot on Sudancarried the bill
on the Sudan peace act between North and South. And that got passed and
the administration has pushed aggressively and has secured a peace agreement
and an active peace between North and South.
Im working now on Darfur (and the genocide there), whats called
Peace and Accountability Act, to try to put similar pressure in that
western Sudan area.
I pushed aggressively on malaria as an issuesixty percent of the
children in sub-Sahara Africa have malariato
get effective treatments out in the region. So far much of our money just
goes for conferences and not for products. Helped with the Presidents
initiative on the AIDS epidemic, particularly in Africa. Worked with a
group on water projects in Africa; a lot of Africa does not have drinkable
water. Trying to get appropriations (and have secured some in the past)
to get just water drilling.
And then another projectwe havent got it as far alongof
getting more pharmaceutical company research on diseases in Third World
countries. Most of the product research goes on in the developing world
and Ive got a proposal to extend lifestyle patentspatents
on lifestyle drugs two yearsif a company comes up for a cure for
a one of the listed category of diseases thats a Third World disease.
For instance, sleeping sickness, river blindness, weve got a litany
of them. If a company can come up with a cure on this, we would grant
them a two-year patent extension on a drug in this category of drugs called
IgnatiusInsight.com: Give an example, if you would, of a lifestyle drug.
Sen. Brownback: Viagra would be the most prominent or known one. Because
were trying to provide an incentive for the companies to do more
research in some of these Third World disease areas.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Have the companies been receptive to that?
Sen. Brownback: They love it. They really like it because it fits
their business model. A two-year patent extension on a big drug product
is worth a lot of money to them. And they like swinging for the fences
and they strike out a lot. But, this is one, if we give them a category
of series of diseases and we say you find a cure for this, we give you
two years on that, thats the exact kind of business model they like.
Because if they get a hit, it really scores big.
Plus, a lot of them, they want to cure these diseases. There is just no
market in Chad or Niger or Sudan. If you get the perfect cure, theres
still no market there.
IgnatiusInsight.com: Who is going to buy the drug for people in those
countrieswho would pay for the drugs if the pharmaceutical companies
come up with them?
Sen. Brownback: We would get the patent for the drug product and then
produce it or give itlicense itto an NGO (non-government
organization), somebody else to produce. Most drug products, not all,
but most drug products cost hundreds of millions to develop and pennies
to replicate. You have to have certain standards and theres a complicated
process but generally each additional pill is not an expensive item once
the product is developed.
IgnatiusInsight.com: You support the proposed constitutional amendment
to define marriage as between one man and one woman. [Senator Sam Brownback
most recently chaired a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on
the Constitution on the amendment Oct. 20th] to examine a constitutional
amendment that would define marriage as the union of one man and one woman.
That doesnt seem like something that is going to go very far. Do
you have any sense of what will happen with that?
Sen. Brownback: I dont. I support the constitutional amendment
on marriage (introduced by Colorado Republican Wayne
Allard) and held hearings in support of that.
I think, at the end of the day, the Court is probably going to force something
to happen on this. I think it would be a very good thing to do it. But
its a big hurdle to a constitutional amendmenttwo thirds of
the House, two thirds of the Senate, three fourths of the statesit
takes a lot.
IgnatiusInsight.com: You are a convert to Catholicism. Would you mind
talking about how you ended up becoming a Catholic?
Sen. Brownback: I felt a deep calling to make that move and spent
roughly four years really studying, reading, thinking about itpraying
about it before deciding to join. I was very happy in the Evangelical
church I was in. I had no problems with the Evangelical church at all.
Its just I felt a deep spiritual calling to do it and have been
delighted to join the Catholic Church. The readings that Ive done
since then by Catholic writersIve really enjoyed the depth
and the beauty of the expression. Its been very helpful to my faith
IgnatiusInsight.com: Which writers, would you say?
Sen. Brownback: Right now Im reading a book by a former archbishop
of Mexico City, (Luis) Martinez, and the book is When
Jesus Sleeps. Its a beautiful set of thoughts about when we
feel as if Gods not there. Thats one that Im currently
reading. Its the second book Ive read by this author. I read
another one, True
Devotion to the Holy Spirit, another very thoughtful and beautiful
set of thoughts and comments.
IgnatiusInsight.com: When you decided to join the Catholic Church, did
the rest of your family join?
Sen. Brownback: They did not. And they have not. So, what we do as
a family is, I will get upusually early on Sunday morningssometimes
not, but typically Ive been getting up, going to Mass, and then
we will go all together to the Evangelical church that I had been attending
and the family continues to attend.
So I get a great Sunday morning. I get the Eucharist and the beauty of
the set of Catholic thoughts and then the praise and worship and preaching
of an Evangelical church. Great combination. Its a great mixture
of the feeding and I really enjoy it.
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