Obama nominates new Commerce Secretary

With Gary Locke poised to replace Jon Huntsman as U.S. ambassador to China, President Obama needs a new Secretary of Commerce — a post that has, if memory serves, given him a little trouble in the past.

Today, the president nominated a California utility and energy executive, John Bryson, for the post.

Mr. Bryson was chairman and chief executive of Edison International, parent company of Southern California Edison and Edison Mission Group, for nearly two decades until 2008. […]

According to his biography released by the White House, Mr. Bryson is also a director of several major corporations, including Boeing, Walt Disney and Coda Automotive, and is a senior adviser to Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. He is chairman of the board of BrightSource Energy, the Public Policy Institute of California and the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California Board of Overseers. He also serves as co-chairman of the Pacific Council on International Policy.

He is a trustee of the California Institute of Technology, a director of the California Endowment and the W. M. Keck Foundation, and serves on the advisory board of Deutsche Bank Americas. Previously Mr. Bryson served on educational, energy and environmental boards, including as a trustee of Stanford University, a member of a United Nations advisory group on energy and climate change, and head of California’s Public Utilities Commission and its State Water Resources Control Board. Early in his career, Mr. Bryson was a founder of the national environmental group the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Up until a few hours ago, I’d never heard of Bryson, so I can’t speak with any confidence to the quality of the nomination. That said, the Center for American Progress seems pleased, as do a variety of folks I’ve talked to this morning involved with climate activism, who consider Bryson one of the good guys.

What I found most interesting, though, wasn’t the White House’s announcement, but rather, the reaction from the Senate Republican leader.

Shortly before Obama announced Bryson’s nomination, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s office reiterated Republicans’ threat to block all administration nominations until the president acts on pending trade deals with Panama, Colombia and South Korea.

Our entire political process has been reduced to a series of hostage stand-offs. McConnell hasn’t raised concerns about Bryson, per se — at least not yet — but he wanted to remind everyone that unless the GOP gets what it wants on some trade measures, Republicans won’t allow a vote on Bryson’s nomination anyway. It doesn’t matter if he’s qualified or not.

American governance has never worked this way; it wasn’t designed to work this way; and it can’t work this way.