Iowa Governor Terry Branstad’s pick to head the Iowa Department of Human Rights, Isaiah McGee, was shot down by the Iowa Senate yesterday on a 30-20 vote. McGee needed to win a 2/3 majority vote and was four votes shy.
Shameful. 20 Senators shot down a good man and an excellent pick to head that department. McGee while being a conservative isn’t a known for being a partisan. He also works well with people with whom he disagrees.
With a new administration change was coming, but it seems some didn’t get the memo and wanted to continue to operate as they had done with the previous administration. How they operated under the Culver administration was chaotic.
Some in the department needed to be reined in. The crux of the vote was McGee telling his staff, boards and commissioners that they were not to speak to the press or media without permission and that they were not to do advocacy (read lobbying) on policy issues.
He wanted to have the Department to have one voice, one in which would reflect the Governor’s position I’m sure. I am appalled at how some in the Department have done an end around to sabotage his appointment. Case in point Donechanh Southammavong who chairs the Iowa Commission on Asian Affairs and most notably, Jill Olsen, who chairs the Iowa Human Rights’ Board and Commission on the Status of Women. Craig Robinson of The Iowa Republican noted last month problems started when Olsen had the commission register against prolife bills.
What appears to be the main issue here is that Olsen and a few other commission members refuse to work with McGee. It’s not only that they take issue with his decision on how to run his department, but they are also undermining him by calling press conferences and staging rallies. That’s not their job, and it actually bolsters McGee’s position that the Human Rights Department needs to become more cohesive.
Another issues has gone unreported by the traditional news media is that this all of the tension between McGee and Olsen and a few staffers began when his department registered against a series of pro-life bills. Olsen believes that the Commission on the Status of Women should advocate for abortion rights, while McGee disagrees.
In other words, Olson wants to use this state commission, its staff, and the tax dollars that support it, to push the agenda of Planned Parenthood and advocate for abortion in Iowa. The state website for the Commission on the Status of Women even links to Planned Parenthood when you click on the “health and fitness” section. Keep in mind that all of this is happening during the first legislative session in almost a decade and a half that there is a possibility that pro-life legislation, including a ban on late term abortions, could actually be enacted. Once you understand that this is the crux of their disagreement, it helps bring things in to focus.
So basically there are those in the Department which is part of the executive branch who want to use taxpayer money to essentially lobby against the Governor. That should not be tolerated, and as Governor Branstad noted this type of lobbying is actually against legislative rules. The Iowa Senate Democrats played politics and catered to special interests instead of looking truly looking at the person filling the role.
Governor Branstad must rein this department in, they are running amok and this has been demonstrated not only by their lobbying, but also with their active role in sabotaging Isaiah McGee’s confirmation. This is what McGee was trying to do, and his only mistake in doing it is that he probably should have waited until after he was confirmed.