President Obama shakes hands with Commerce secretary nominee John Bryson… (Saul Loeb, AFP/Getty Images )
Reporting from Washington — Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) put the nomination of John Bryson to be Commerce secretary on hold, saying the environmental views of the former Edison International executive were too radical.
Inhofe, a leading skeptic of global warming, said he was using a procedural tactic that allows a single senator to block a nominee from getting a confirmation vote by the full Senate. The move — essentially the threat of a filibuster — can be overcome with the support of 60 senators.
It often stalls a nomination for weeks and can ultimately derail it — or lead the president to circumvent it with a recess appointment.
"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 Tuesday.
Inhofe said Bryson's nomination for the Commerce job is ironic because "here's a guy who wants to kill commerce" through his environmental policies, Inhofe said.
He cited Bryson's role in 1970 in co-founding the Natural Resources Defense Council, which Inhofe called a "radical ... left-wing organization." Inhofe also criticized Bryson for supporting a 2009 House bill to address climate change through a controversial cap-and-trade system.
President Obama nominated Bryson on May 31, but the nomination already was stalled because of disputes over pending trade deals.
In March, 44 of the 47 Senate Republicans vowed to block any Commerce secretary nominee until Obama sent trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama to Congress and promised to sign them if passed. Those deals are caught up in a dispute over adding funding for a government program to retrain workers who lose their jobs because of the trade deals.
Inhofe said even if that hurdle was overcome, he would continue to block Bryson's nomination. He was backed in the move by two conservative organizations, the American Conservative Union and Freedom Action.
Obama could circumvent the opposition by installing Bryson with a recess appointment when the Senate leaves for its August recess. But Republicans might use other procedural moves to prevent a formal Senate recess, denying Obama the ability to make such an appointment for that and other key administration positions.
White House spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said Bryson was "ready to promote American businesses and American products around the world."
"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," she said.