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.

Today, Gov. E. Terry Branstad released the following statement after receiving 82 votes from the U.S. Senate to become the next U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China:

“I want to thank President Trump and Vice President Pence for nominating me to be the United States Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China. I also want to thank Chairman Corker, Ranking Member Cardin, and the United States Senate for the confidence they have placed in me. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that a boy from a small farm in Leland, Iowa, would one day have the opportunity to represent my country and my state on the world stage, working closely with one of the world’s most influential countries and one of America’s largest trading partners. None of this would have been possible without the dedicated love and support of my wife Chris and my family.

While I’m temporarily leaving the state I love and have governed for over 22 years, I know I’m leaving Iowa in great hands with Kim Reynolds as governor. I look forward to working with both my friend President Donald Trump and my old friend President Xi Jinping for the mutual benefit of both of our countries and the rest of the world.”

The Republican Party of Iowa released the following statement:

“Terry Branstad is Iowa. And now, we are happy to share the best this state has to offer with the world,” said Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann. “Branstad’s work ethic is boundless, his passion to make a difference is strong, and perhaps most importantly, his heart is one with Iowa. Our sincere gratitude and prayers go with him as he embarks on this next journey.”

The Iowa Democratic Party released the following statement:

Branstad’s departure leaves Reynolds explaining her wrong priorities for Iowa

DES MOINES, Iowa – Iowa Democratic Party Chairman Derek Eadon released the following statement in response to Governor Branstad’s confirmation as Ambassador to China:

“We congratulate Governor Branstad on his appointment and wish him well in China. But this transition leaves Iowans with serious questions about the state’s path forward.

“Iowans need a governor focused on supporting job creation and strengthening middle class families. As Lt. Governor, Kim Reynolds’ record has shown other priorities: focusing on purely partisan agenda while the future of our state has been jeopardized.

“Lt. Gov. Reynolds has lobbied to defund Planned Parenthood, she led the charge to take away basic rights from workers, and she stripped power away from local governments to set their own minimum wage. Meanwhile, she failed to support education as she supported a state budget that threatens the future of public education in Iowa by raising tuition at community colleges and cutting vital reading programs for our children. And she stood by as Iowa’s financial security crumbled, with budget shortfalls topping hundreds of millions due to mismanagement.

“Kim Reynolds’ record as Lieutenant Governor raises serious warning signs for Iowans. As she becomes governor, Iowa voters will hold her accountable for her record.”

Senator Chuck Grassley’s office released the prepared text of his Senate floor speech.

The Senate voted to confirm Gov. Terry Branstad as U.S. ambassador to China on an 82 to 13 vote. Sen. Chuck Grassley gave a speech on the Senate floor immediately prior to the vote. Video of the speech delivery is available here.

Floor Speech of Sen. Chuck Grassley
Full Senate Vote on Nomination of Gov. Terry Branstad as U.S. Ambassador to China
Monday, May 22, 2017

I’m pleased that the Senate is finally considering the nomination of Governor Branstad to be Ambassador to China.

Before I speak about the nominee, I’d first like to express my disappointment and frustration with the seemingly endless obstruction on the part of the minority.

This nominee received unanimous support in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee more than a week ago. Yet, the Majority Leader was required to file cloture on the nominee.

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.

I’m honored to have the opportunity today to speak to my colleagues about my good friend, Governor Terry Branstad.

Governor Branstad is the longest serving governor in U.S. history. He’s a lifelong Iowan who has devoted his life to public service.

After more than 22 years as my home state’s chief executive, I’m proud to support Governor Branstad’s nomination to serve our country as the next U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.

The fact is, he’s been an ambassador for Iowa to the nation and to world for his entire career. He’s been a champion for Iowa and on behalf of Iowans around the globe.

As governor, he’s been vigorous in promoting our state’s economy and opening markets for our farm commodities, financial services and manufacturing to the world marketplace.

His nomination should come as no surprise to the people of Iowa. We have long known and benefited from the relationship Governor Branstad has with the people of China.

A sister-state relationship in 1983 has grown into a successful trade partnership that has benefited Iowa farmers and businesses.

Perhaps most notably, Governor Branstad enjoys a 30-year friendship with President Xi. Their first meeting took place in 1985 when Xi was then a local provincial official who led an agriculture delegation to Iowa.

President Xi visited Iowa again in 2012, when Governor Branstad was back at the helm in his fifth term. Their relationship reflects genuine goodwill and mutual respect.

Governor Branstad has never stopped working to expand Iowa’s trade, investment and economic partnerships on the world stage, including with China.

He will bring Midwestern humility and level-headed leadership to the job. He is a work horse who is unafraid to get in the trenches to get the job done.

I have no doubt he will stand strong for our American values, such as freedom of the press and religious liberty, and work to strengthen peace, stability and prosperity between our two nations.

Once confirmed, I’m confident that Governor Branstad will bring to bear his tireless commitment to solve problems and always move the ball forward.

Although his heart will always be in Iowa, I know that Governor Branstad will throw himself into this job whole-heartedly.

Governor Branstad is uniquely qualified to help strengthen the trade, economic, cultural and geo-political relationship between our two countries.

I’m pleased that he’s now been called to serve as Ambassador to China. I have every confidence that he will represent the United States well and excel just as he has throughout his career.

Without reservation, I support this nomination. I urge my colleagues to join me in supporting his nomination.

Thank you and I yield the floor.

Senator Joni Ernst gave this speech:

Ernst Supports Iowa Governor Branstad on Confirmation to be U.S. Ambassador to China
“The position of U.S. Ambassador to China is one of the most important ambassadorial positions in the world, and I am confident that my friend and Governor – Terry Branstad – is the right person for the job.”

May 22 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst today spoke on the floor of the United States Senate in support of Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s confirmation to be U.S. Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to the People’s Republic of China.

Click here or on the image below to watch the Senator’s remarks.

The following is the full text of Senator Ernst’s remarks:

“Mr. President,

“I rise today to encourage my colleagues to support Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s nomination to be U.S. Ambassador to the People’s Republic of China.

“The position of U.S. Ambassador to China is one of the most important ambassadorial positions in the world, and I am confident that my friend and Governor – Terry Branstad – is the right person for the job.

“Having worked alongside the Governor for many years, I know he will exemplify the same leadership, thoughtfulness, and dedication in his role as Ambassador to China on behalf of the United States as he did for the people of Iowa.

“Importantly, Governor Branstad also knows China and its leaders well. He first met President Xi Jinping while he was visiting Iowa on an agricultural research trip in 1985. They have kept in touch over the years, and Governor Branstad has since visited China a number of times on behalf of the State of Iowa.

“Iowa’s extensive trade relationship with China has given Governor Branstad a front-seat view of the complexities of our country’s broader trade and economic relationship with China and will provide him with the foundation to effectively advocate for U.S. interests.

“As evidenced by his successful confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – which approved his nomination by voice vote – Governor Branstad will not only work tirelessly to foster our trade and economic interests with China, but he is also prepared to tackle the many other complex bilateral issues we have with China – from North Korea to the South China Sea to human rights.

“It has been an honor to serve the people of Iowa alongside Governor Branstad – the longest serving governor in United States history – and I am thrilled to continue to work with him in his new role serving the American people.

“I thank Governor Branstad for his service to Iowa, and I wish him and his family the best as they prepare to depart for Beijing.

“Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor. ”

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