Senate floor votes likely this week on Branstad's ambassador nomination
If all goes as planned, Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad could be confirmed as the U.S. ambassador to China later this week.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, on Monday moved to close debate on Branstad's nomination, a procedural step that sets up a preliminary floor vote as early as Wednesday.
That vote could be delayed, however, if the chamber's Democratic minority moves to delay or block another nomination ahead of Branstad's on the Senate agenda.
Should Branstad succeed on the initial vote, a final vote on his confirmation would occur within 30 hours. Under the most rapid likely scenario, that means he could be officially confirmed Thursday.
A spokesman for McConnell said Monday that the initial vote — on a cloture motion, ending debate on Branstad’s nomination — could take place one hour after the Senate convenes Wednesday.
A spokesman for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told the Des Moines Register on Monday that the cloture vote "won’t necessarily happen."
That's because Democrats are likely to delay the nomination of Rachel Brand, President Donald Trump's nominee as associate attorney general, the No. 3 position in the Justice Department.
"The (Branstad) cloture vote isn’t scheduled for Wednesday, its scheduled for whenever the Brand nomination is finished," Schumer spokesman Matt House said. "So it’ll be determined by that."
Brand — who also happens to be a native Iowan — is a former assistant attorney general who has won U.S. Senate confirmation twice before. But U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa and the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, warned last month that Brand may face a filibuster, and Democrats have been sharply critical of the Trump Justice Department in the wake of FBI Director James Comey's firing last week.
Although he'll be captive to the political wrangling of the nominees ahead of him on the schedule, Branstad's nomination is not seen as controversial. He breezed through a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing earlier this month, and is expected to easily win confirmation by the full Senate.
Branstad has said he will not resign immediately after winning confirmation, and a spokesman told the Register on Monday that the governor and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds would outline the transition process once he's formally confirmed.
"Regardless of the date of the final confirmation vote, we will have details to release shortly after," spokeman Ben Hammes said.