The US Senate on Monday confirmed Iowa Governor Terry Branstad as the next ambassador to Beijing, providing President Donald Trump with an envoy whose decades-long connection to China could smooth relations between the global powers.
Branstad, 70, says he intends to use his decades-long relationship with Chinese President Xi Jinping (shee jihn-peeng) to advance US and global interests. The two met in 1985 when Xi was visiting Iowa as an agricultural official.
One of Branstad's first challenges will be pushing China to take a harder line against North Korea, which said Monday it successfully tested what it called an intermediate-range ballistic missile, although US officials and experts questioned the extent of the country's progress.
Branstad, who was elected governor in 1982 and returned in 2011 for his sixth nonconsecutive term, in recent years also privatized Iowa's Medicaid health care program for the poor and disabled without legislative approval, a move he defended amid a court challenge and one that he claims saved the state money in the long run.
Branstad is the longest-serving governor in US history.
Though he had won praise from Democrats and Republicans alike at the committee level, 13 senators - all Democrats - voted Monday against his confirmation.
Brandstad plans to travel to every province in China and is resigning as Governor Wednesday.
I'm pleased that the Senate is finally considering the nomination of Governor Branstad to be Ambassador to China.
After the Senate vote, Branstad thanked Trump and Vice President Pence for the nomination and the Senate for the confidence they have placed in him.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, speaking on the Senate floor in favor of Branstad's confirmation, said the governor was "uniquely qualified to help strengthen the trade, economic, cultural and geo-political relationship between our two countries". He and Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds were re-elected in 2014.
I'm honored to have the opportunity today to speak to my colleagues about my good friend, Governor Terry Branstad.
"She's kind of been the lead person on that, but I've been helping", Branstad said.
Branstad said he was saddened to hear about Corning's death. "She's a thrower and I'm a saver, let's put it that way, but that's always been the case", he noted.
"I will not shed a tear for his departure to China".
"I think it's time for a change", Davis said.
That's expected to happen within the next few days.