- Associated Press - Monday, December 12, 2016

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) - It may be weeks or even months before Gov. Terry Branstad’s nearly 22-year tenure leading Iowa ends.

President-elect Donald Trump selected Branstad as ambassador to China, but the governor told reporters Monday that he hasn’t received paperwork to begin the Senate confirmation process, and it could take several weeks for his nomination to be reviewed. Branstad plans to remain governor until he’s confirmed as ambassador.

Branstad did not try to estimate when that could happen, but he pointed out that the process for some previous appointments to the post took months.

“Your guess … is as good as mine,” he said.

The lack of clarity means it could be some time before Lt. Gov. Kim Reynolds becomes governor. Reynolds appeared unfazed by the likelihood that Branstad could remain leader during a key time in Iowa’s government. Republicans will take control of both the Senate and House next legislative session, and whoever serves as governor will have the opportunity to make sweeping changes in state policy.

Reynolds, 57, who is expected to appoint a new lieutenant governor while keeping Branstad’s government appointments, said she and Branstad have been a team during their six years together.

“The reality is that we’re really not going to do anything different,” she said.

Branstad, 70, is in the midst of his sixth nonconsecutive term as governor. He is the country’s longest serving governor.

Several staples of the first weeks of a new legislative session will go on as planned, Branstad said. He will make budget recommendations to the Legislature and he will deliver a key speech to lawmakers known as the Condition of the State address.

The next legislative session is scheduled to begin on Jan. 9. There is no official adjournment date, though lawmakers will stop receiving expense reimbursements after 110 days. That date will be in late April, though Branstad’s spokesman noted that lawmakers could finish their work sooner than that.

When asked whether he could be governor for the entire legislative session, Branstad said, “It depends upon how long the session goes.”

Sen. Rob Hogg of Cedar Rapids, the Senate Democratic minority leader, said on Friday he looked forward to Reynolds’ governorship given her stint as a state lawmaker between 2009 and 2010. Hogg said he didn’t feel Branstad’s confirmation should take a lot of time given his future key role with China.

“That’s a pretty important position,” Hogg said. “I don’t see any reason why the United States Senate would delay on that.”

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