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Inhofe tries to gather reinforcements for blockade of Commerce nominee
October 19, 2011

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Inhofe tries to gather reinforcements for blockade of Commerce nominee

Allison Winter, E&E reporter

Published: Wednesday, October 19, 2011

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Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) is trying to rally members of his party to oppose the confirmation of President Obama's pick for Commerce secretary, John Bryson.

Inhofe spoke out against the environmentalist and businessman yesterday at the weekly Senate GOP caucus luncheon. The lawmaker's efforts come as the Senate prepares for a potential vote on the long-stalled nomination.

Obama named Bryson as his pick to lead the Commerce Department in May, but his confirmation was put on hold when senators declined to move any Commerce nominees until the Obama administration sent to Congress three free-trade agreements. The approval of those agreements last week opened the door for the Commerce nominees.

Senate leadership sent out a "hotline" on the nomination yesterday morning to see if they could approve Bryson without debate or objection. But multiple senators said they would block the nominee, according to Democratic and GOP aides. Inhofe has been the most vocal opponent of Bryson.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) told reporters yesterday that he had hoped to expedite Bryson's nomination but would instead have to file cloture, which would set a timeline for debate before voting on the nominee. That also means Reid would have to gather at least 60 votes to advance the nomination.

Inhofe spoke to his colleagues yesterday to raise concerns about Bryson, who he thinks will favor alternative energy to the detriment of other industries and jobs.

Bryson, a former energy company executive and co-founder of the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council, has come under fire from Inhofe and other Senate Republicans over his environmentalist past and his position on global climate change.

Inhofe has labeled Bryson a radical environmentalist for his founding of the NRDC and his past support for cap-and-trade climate legislation. Now he is tying Bryson's support for alternative energy to the controversy over the administration's grants for solar company Solyndra, which defaulted on its government loans.

"In reality what has happened is a lot of people have forgotten about the Bryson nomination because it was a while ago. Senator Inhofe wanted to bring those issues back to the forefront," Inhofe spokesman Matt Dempsey said yesterday.

Since his nomination, Bryson has sought to downplay his connection to the NRDC and distance himself from his conservationist past. He has spoken in favor of an "all of the above" energy policy and said that if approved for the position he would focus on jobs -- not an environmentalist agenda (E&E Daily, June 22).

Bryson is a former member of the United Nations' advisory group on energy and climate change, and he publicly called the Democratic climate change bill passed by the House in 2009 "moderate." The controversial effort to curb carbon emissions failed in the Senate.


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