Branstad approved, Reynolds to step in as governor

Maggie Curry

Senators met Monday to approve Iowan Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to China, confirmed in favor 82-13.

During the vote senators spoke about Branstad, emphasizing he was the longest-serving governor in United States history at more than 22 years. 

What Branstad is up against

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, spoke before the U.S. Senate in support of Branstad’s nomination. But she and the other speakers acknowledged the importance of the ambassador to China, and the importance of previous American values in regards to issues involving China, such as the acknowledgment of Taiwan and dealing with North Korea.

“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,” Ernst said.

Relationships with China and President Trump, who nominated Branstad, have been under question since Trump and his family’s corporations received trademarks in China after his election they had been previously denied.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, spoke to the Senate about the economic model of U.S. companies moving to China, along with the different values between the U.S. and China. Following the vote, he said Branstad had not defended American workers in his own state, and the senator had no faith in his ability to do so as an ambassador. 

“It’s not just worker rights where China falls woefully short,” Brown said. He listed human rights, rights to free speech and freedom of religion, and women’s health rights, mentioning Iowa’s recent defunding of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, addressed the need for cloture on the nomination, delaying Branstad’s nomination for 30 hours. He said Branstad had been an ambassador for the state of Iowa and the nation his entire 22 years as governor, particularly in agricultural matters.

“He will bring Midwestern humility and level-headed leadership to the job,” Grassley said to the Senate.

“Terry Branstad is Iowa. And now, we are happy to share the best this state has to offer with the world,” Iowa GOP Chairman Jeff Kaufmann said in a release.

He will resign as governor Wednesday, as reported by WHO’s Dave Price, and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds will take his place.

“I know I’m leaving Iowa in great hands with Kim Reynolds as governor,” Branstad said in a release. 

Reynolds will be Iowa’s first female governor, but that isn’t all that sets her apart. Reynolds was also a one-time college drop-out and alcoholic, who has since had 16 years of sobriety and received a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies consisting of political science, business management and communications from Iowa State University in Dec. 2016.

Reynolds will fill out the remainder of the term and is expected to run for re-election as governor in 2018. 

“We will see what happens as she gets into the weeds of policy and politics. She has been shielded so far by Branstad’s success, enacting much of what he wanted the legislature to do,” said Mack Shelley, chair of the political science department. 

Reynolds and Branstad were both aligned by party with the Republican-held Iowa House and Iowa Senate. Up to this point, Reynolds has only had to enact the legislation Branstad signed into law, but will now have her own veto power.

The Iowa Democratic Party released a statement following Branstad’s appointment addressing Reynolds as governor. It said: “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.”

After a hard budget year for the state Legislature, along with many new amendments going into effect in July, Reynolds will be the one under whom the policies are implemented.

New lieutenant on the way?

State officials debated in May whether Reynolds would fill both duties of the governor and lieutenant governor, or could appoint a lieutenant governor to assist her.

“These situations often become the equivalent of he said, she said, and it’s not always clear who has final authority,” Shelley said.

Reynolds had indicated her intent was to appoint a lieutenant governor.

“A fairly reasonable reading of the Iowa constitution and statues does seem to give her that authority,” Shelley said.

Read previous statements from state officials on the issue below: