- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 9, 2011

President Obama’s pick to replace Gary F. Locke as commerce secretary faces an uphill Senate confirmation battle. Even before the White House handed in the name of John Bryson for the job, Senate Republicans had vowed to block any nominee over administration foot-dragging on free-trade agreements. The selection of this particular leftist for a business-outreach post is rallying the opposition. “I find Mr Bryson unacceptable as secretary of commerce for the United States, and I will work in opposition to his conformation,” said Sen. John Barrasso, vice chairman of the Republican Conference, to The Washington Times.

Mr. Bryson co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council, a radical outfit that relies on lawsuits and activist courts to advance an anti-industrial agenda. Mr. Bryson even used his time as chairman and CEO of Edison International to advocate government coercion to address so-called “global warming.” A member of the United Nations Secretary-General’s Advisory Group on Energy and Climate Change, Mr. Bryson told a conference in 2009 that it’s “incredibly important” that the United States “comes forth in this year with federal climate change legislation.”

Nominating an advocate for schemes that massively raise prices for struggling consumers and small businesses makes little sense in this economy. “It’s just wrong to put somebody in charge of the Commerce Department who called the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill ‘moderate but acceptable’ and said that cap-and-trade was a good way to hide a carbon tax,” Mr. Barrasso told The Washington Times. “We need a pro-growth business leader who can make American businesses more innovative at home and more competitive abroad.”

A March letter from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and 44 Republican co-signers would block confirmation of the president’s nominee for commerce secretary (and any other trade appointments) until the administration sends the free-trade agreements with Panama and Colombia. By May, the administration started pulling back on a trade deal with South Korea, so Mr. McConnell added it to the list of bills that must pass for the confirmation blockade to be lifted. The three trade agreements have been languishing since the Democratic Congress refused to act on deals President George W. Bush’s team inked in 2007. It’s up to Mr. Obama to initiate the process again.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that implementing the trio of trade pacts would protect 380,000 U.S. jobs at a time when the economy needs employment more than anything else. “When the White House is actively depriving others of jobs because some union boss isn’t getting his way, it’s lost touch,” Mr. McConnell said on Tuesday.

The White House needs to get moving to free up these markets for U.S. exporters. In doing so, Mr. Obama also needs to have a leader in place at the Commerce Department who is going to help businesses take advantage of these expanded opportunities. With unemployment at 9.1 percent, it doesn’t make sense for the administration to add to its ranks yet another shill for rent-seeking crony capitalists whose primary goal is to suck down taxpayer money on worthless fads like electric cars, windmills and solar panels.

Mr. Barrasso says his colleagues are equally displeased with the choice of Mr. Bryson. Given the opposition, Mr. Obama ought to look for someone with a track record of creating jobs, not someone whose claim to fame is building an organization dedicated to destroying them.

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