DES MOINES — Conservative activist Bob Vander Plaats said Thursday his Family Leader ally Robert Cramer was the victim of an unconstitutional religious “litmus test.”
He called for Gov. Terry Branstad and Senate Democrats to vote again on Cramer's confirmation to the state Board of Regents.
While noting that such a confirmation reconsideration would be “atypical and highly unusual,” Vander Plaats said during a Statehouse news conference that “it would be a breath of fresh air” for Senate Majority Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, to join with Branstad to identify a remedy that ensures Cramer’s service as a regent.
Vander Plaats, a former GOP gubernatorial candidate who serves as president of the Family Leader, called on the Iowa Senate to “right” their “wrong” by confirming Cramer in “a re-vote.”
“To do this would be a great example of leadership for Iowans. It’s never too late to do what’s right,” Vander Plaats said. He called it “more than disturbing” to see Cramer rejected because majority Senate Democrats “deemed him unfit because he holds to some core standards, some core values, one of them being that he believes marriage is the union of a man and a woman.”
Gronstal said “the charge is absurd” that Cramer was turned down on the basis of a religious litmus test.
The Senate voted 27-23 Monday to reject Cramer’s gubernatorial appointment to a six-year term on the regents’ panel that oversees the University of Iowa, Iowa State University, the University of Northern Iowa and two special schools. Brooklyn dairy farmer Craig Lang — currently the regent board president — also was denied reappointment to a second term by a 30-20 margin.
An affirmative vote of 34 senators is needed to meet the two-thirds majority needed for approval.
Branstad indicated Thursday that the Iowa confirmation threshold should be a simple majority like the U.S. Senate, noting both Cramer and Lang won support from a majority of senators.
Asked about Vander Plaats’ call for a re-vote, Branstad told reporters, “I don’t think it’s possible.”
“You know the rules and I know the rules. I don’t think that’s permitted under the rules,” the governor added.
According to Senate Rules, a reconsideration vote could have been scheduled if a senator who voted against Cramer on Monday had filed some paperwork by Tuesday night calling for another vote, but that didn’t happen.
Sen. Matt McCoy, D-Des Moines, said Cramer was given a fair hearing in the Senate’s vetting process and was rejected.
“I think that we should flat out stay with our policy that once somebody is considered and rejected, that is final,” McCoy said. “There is no need to reconsider this nomination for any reason. The outcome would be absolutely the same.”