President Obama nominated John Bryson, the former chairman and CEO of Edison International, as the next Secretary of Commerce, saying his experience “will help us create more jobs and make America more competitive” globally.
Obama is eager to gain momentum in the business community and the nomination of Bryson is seen by many as a step in that direction.
Bryson, 67, has close ties to both environmental groups as well as the business, having co-founded Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group. He also served on the United Nations advisory group on energy and climate change.
“John will be an important part of my economic team, working with the business community, fostering growth, and helping open up new markets abroad to promote jobs and opportunities her at home,” Obama said in a statement announcing Bryson’s nomination on Tuesday.
It isn’t clear how Republicans will respond to Bryson’s nomination since they have threatened to block any nominee to lead the Commerce Department until the administration submits proposed free trade agreements with Colombia and Panama to Congress for approval.
If confirmed by the Senate, Bryson would replace Gary Locke, the outgoing Commerce Secretary, whom Obama recently named as his next ambassador to China, replacing former Utah Governor Jon Huntsman, who is considering a run for the White House.
In announcing his pick for this key position, President Obama by-passed Ron Kirk, the U.S. Trade Representative who was thought to be a front-runner for the job.
Republicans are embroiled in a battle with the White House and Senate Democrats over presidential appointments citing the need for the White House to make good on trade agreements and Democrats to submit a budget.
President Obama is offering an olive branch to the business community by nominating and placing former business leaders in key positions, hoping to improve his “anti-business” reputation and improve his prospects for a second term.
After the 2010 midterm elections, Obama admitted he had lost credibility by not having done enough to appease the business community.
Thomas Donohue, president and CEO of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said in a statement Tuesday, “With his extensive knowledge of the private sector and years of experience successfully running a major company, we hope Mr. Bryson will be a strong voice for American business.”
Besides his experience as a chairman and CEO, Bryson serves on the boards of BrightSource Energy and the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California. He formally occupied a seat on Disney’s board and has been a director at Boeing since 1995.