Iowa Senate Democrats play politics with Board of Medicine appointments

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Appointing Iowans to our State Boards and Commissions is a humbling responsibility. As Governor of this state, it’s a responsibility I take very seriously. That’s why it was so disappointing and unfortunate to see 18 Senate Democrats inject petty partisan politics when they failed to reconfirm Diane Clark and Dr. Hamed Tewfik to the Iowa Board of Medicine last month before the 2017 legislative session adjourned.

Diane Clark, the first non-physician chair of the Board of Medicine from Lake Mills, and Dr. Hamed Tewfik, a physician from Iowa City, each needed two-thirds support in the 50-member Senate. That meant they required 34 yes votes to be reconfirmed. Each received 32 votes, including two Senate Democrats and the lone Independent in the body.

Senate Democrats said they chose not to reconfirm Ms. Clark and Dr. Tewfik because of the votes they cast to ban remotely administering abortion-inducing pills, or tele-med abortions. At the time, the Board of Medicine cited health and safety concerns and issued a rule requiring physicians to personally perform a physical examination and dispense the drugs. The Board of Medicine took a thoughtful and meaningful approach to a very difficult and personal issue.

But in my view, what really happened was just partisan politics. Because Democrats are in the minority, they used a 34 vote threshold — higher than most other states and the United States Senate — to take down two highly qualified Iowans from serving. They didn’t deserve this. Diane Clark and Dr. Tewfik are the epitome of what it means to be a good public servant. Conscientious, smart, and willing to volunteer their time and effort to serve Iowans. They have taken the time and carefully studied the complex issues the Board of Medicine dealt with the last three years.

Dr. Tewfik, an immigrant who arrived in the United States in the 1970s, is a wonderful physician who has served his patients and community with the utmost care at the Iowa City Cancer Treatment Center. Ms. Clark, a retired nurse, has extensive expertise serving as physician services administrator for the Mayo Health System’s Medical Center, been active in the Federation of State Medical Boards and was also an Iowa commissioner for the Interstate Medical Licensure Compact Commission.

It’s truly unfortunate that two highly qualified individuals, who volunteered their time to serving Iowans, are prevented from serving another term on the Board of Medicine because Senate Democrats chose to play the worst kind of petty, personal retribution because of bitterness over losing the election and setting a new direction in the Iowa Senate.

At the national level and in 46 other states, nominees are confirmed by a majority. I believe it’s time for Iowa to change the law, join the majority of states, and confirm by majority vote.

• Terry Branstad is governor of Iowa.

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