Senate confirms Branstad as U.S. ambassador to China

Minutes ago the U.S. Senate confirmed Governor Terry Branstad as ambassador to China, clearing the way for Branstad to resign on Wednesday, allowing Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds to be sworn in as governor. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had unanimously approved Branstad’s nomination earlier this month, but twelve senators voted against advancing his nomination last week, and thirteen senators voted against him on the floor today. The opponents included Democrats Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont–all considered potential presidential candidates in 2020. In a list-building e-mail earlier this afternoon, Brown wrote,

Branstad is notorious for busting collective bargaining rights in his state. Legislation he signed into law will force Planned Parenthood clinics to close this summer.

How can we make an anti-labor, anti-women’s rights politician in charge of U.S. relations with a country that has large human rights problems, especially in the areas of women’s and workers’ rights.

Given how unpopular Branstad is with highly-engaged Democratic activists, a vote against confirming the governor certainly wouldn’t hurt any of these senators in the next Iowa caucus campaign.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, also a possible Democratic presidential contender, supported Branstad’s confirmation. I’ll update this post later with full details on the Senate vote once the roll call has closed and some political reaction.

UPDATE: The thirteen senators who voted against Branstad were Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Booker, Brown, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Gary Peters of Michigan, Sanders, Chuck Schumer of New York, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, and Warren. All are Democrats except Sanders, who caucuses with Democrats. All represent states where organized labor is relatively strong.

SECOND UPDATE: Added below Branstad’s statement and other comments on his confirmation, as well as Senator Chuck Grassley’s speech on the Senate floor before today’s vote.

I had to laugh hearing Grassley “express my disappointment and frustration with the seemingly endless obstruction on the part of the minority.” He is bent out of shape because Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had to file cloture on Branstad’s nomination:

We could have approved this nomination with just a few minutes of debate time, yet, the minority required that we use 30 hours – not because they wanted to debate the merits of the nominee, but simply to delay the business of this body.

It’s unfortunate that their delay has kept an eminently qualified individual from getting into the job to promote American interests in China sooner.

Grassley and his fellow Republicans didn’t give the eminently qualified Judge Merrick Garland even a hearing, let alone a floor vote for his nomination to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court.

Continue Reading...

Now we can see which Iowans will suffer most from Planned Parenthood and victims assistance cuts

It’s not abstract anymore.

We knew eliminating state funding for Planned Parenthood’s family planning services would cause thousands to lose access to basic health care.

We knew deep cuts to state funding for victims assistance would affect thousands of sexual assault and domestic abuse survivors.

Now we are starting to see which Iowans will be the first to suffer from Republican choices on how to spend the public’s money.

Continue Reading...

Iowa Democrats face incredibly difficult path back to legislative majorities (part 1)

Many Iowa Democrats expect to have the wind at their backs for the 2018 elections, due to surging progressive activism, an unpopular Republican president, and backlash against GOP lawmakers who used their power this year to take rights away from hundreds of thousands of workers, lower wages for tens of thousands more, and undermine protections for those who suffer workplace injuries.

It’s too early to predict the political climate next fall, but Democrats need to hope for favorable external conditions as well as strong recruits and well-run campaigns. New calculations of last year’s presidential election results by state legislative district point to a very steep climb back to 51 seats in the Iowa House and 26 seats in the Senate. This post will survey the terrain in the upper chamber.

Continue Reading...

Early clues about the Kim Reynolds leadership style are not encouraging

Lieutenant Governor Kim Reynolds will likely begin performing the duties of our state’s highest office very soon, following Governor Terry Branstad’s expected confirmation as U.S. ambassador to China. Speaking to journalists, some Republicans who have worked with Reynolds have enthused about her willingness to study the issues and be engaged in policy-making as part of her long preparation for the job.

Unfortunately, the way Reynolds has handled the controversy surrounding her authority to appoint a new lieutenant governor has revealed a willful disdain for research and opposing views.

Now, she admits she may have trouble working with Attorney General Tom Miller, whom she views as “my legal counsel” interfering with “my plan.”

If recent events reflect how Reynolds will approach other complicated and contentious issues, Iowans have reason to worry.

Continue Reading...

Read Planned Parenthood's lawsuit against Iowa's new anti-abortion law

Iowa’s proposed 72-hour waiting period for all abortions represents an “unwarranted intrusion into women’s personal privacy and autonomy” that “will threaten women’s health” and create “an undue burden” with “an improper purpose,” according to a lawsuit Planned Parenthood of the Heartland filed yesterday in Polk County.

Governor Terry Branstad plans to sign Senate File 471, which would be one of the country’s most restrictive anti-abortion laws, first thing in the morning May 5. Originally conceived as a ban on most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the bill became much broader when Iowa House Republicans added the no-exceptions 72-hour waiting period, new ultrasound rules and a requirement that doctors inform women about other options and “indicators, contra-indicators, and risk factors including any physical, psychological, or situational factors related to the abortion.”

Continue Reading...
View More...