Senator vows to block Commerce nominee Bryson

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 12, 2011 6:31pm EDT

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Republican oil-state senator said on Tuesday he would block a vote on President Barack Obama's choice to be commerce secretary because of the nominee's environmental views.

"Today I am placing a hold on the nomination of John Bryson," Senator James Inhofe said, referring to the former energy company executive Obama tapped weeks ago to replace outgoing Commerce Secretary Gary Locke.

"With sky high unemployment and a struggling economy, who does President Obama choose to promote job growth? The founder of the radical Natural Resources Defense Council, a left-wing environmentalist organization, which in the name of global warming, seeks to increase drastically the price of electricity and gasoline across America," Inhofe said.

"This is a recipe for disaster for our economy," he said.

Bryson, at his confirmation hearing last month, said he was proud of helping to found the NRDC four decades ago but noted the group often opposed decisions he made as chief executive of California utility Edison International from 1990 to 2008 and sometimes sued to block them.

He also said his top priority would be to help the Obama administration create more jobs.

Inhofe's hold could be a serious obstacle for Bryson because in the Senate a single member can effectively hold up a nomination.

In June, Nobel Prize laureate Peter Diamond withdrew as a nominee for Federal Reserve governor in the face of a Republican senator's hold, despite winning Senate Banking Committee approval three times for the post.

Inhofe, from the oil and gas-producing state of Oklahoma, also criticize Bryson for his past support of climate change legislation that was approved by the House of Representatives but then died in the Senate.

"If Bryson becomes Secretary of Commerce, economic growth in Oklahoma and across the nation could be in jeopardy, and I will be doing everything in my power to block his confirmation," Inhofe said.

White House spokesman Kate Bedingfield said Bryson's experience at Edison International and on the boards of companies such as Boeing and Disney made him the right man to replace Locke, who is becoming U.S. ambassador to China.

"With nearly two decades as a CEO and having served in the leadership of some of America's top companies, John Bryson has created jobs and understands what it takes for American businesses to innovate and compete in an increasingly competitive global economy," Bedingfield said.

"With critical work still to be done to improve the economy and get people back to work, the US needs leaders ready to promote American businesses and American products around the world, and that's exactly what John Bryson will do."

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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