Harry Reid to force Tuesday vote on Obama commerce secretary

Matthew Boyle Investigative Reporter
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is expected to pull a procedural move Tuesday afternoon to sneak President Obama’s Commerce Secretary nominee John Bryson through Senate confirmation, The Daily Caller has learned.

The highly unusual maneuver will permit Reid to bypass the permanent Senate floor “hold” placed on Bryson’s nomination by Oklahoma GOP Sen. James Inhofe in July for Bryson’s involvement in founding “the radical Natural Resources Defense Council” in the 1970’s.

Reid’s chosen procedural maneuver, called a “time agreement,” can quickly force Bryson’s confirmation to the floor with little opportunity for objection.

If Reid is able to move forward procedurally, Bryson’s confirmation could reach the Senate floor on Tuesday afternoon. In that case, a simple 50-vote majority would confirm Bryson’s nomination — meaning Democrats could simply slip him through.

Inhofe told The Daily Caller on Tuesday morning that he will meet with the Senate Republican leadership around noon today. He said he will ask Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and others to back his call for Reid to require a 60-vote threshold to confirm Bryson as the new Secretary of Commerce.

“We are going to tell the majority that in the event that they don’t agree to giving us a 60-vote threshold, and then go ahead and vote on the nomination, then we will go ahead and object to the motion to proceed — and go through all these arduous things and a filibuster — and then ultimately they’ll have to do a 60-vote margin anyway,” Inhofe said in a phone interview.

The conservative stalwart from Oklahoma added that if he wins the GOP leadership’s support, Reid can either concede the issue and hold a 60-member majority vote, or fight back and ultimately lose.

“I’ll find out later today if the Republicans in the conference agree with me,” Inhofe told TheDc.

As the ranking Republican member of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, Inhofe has held up Bryson’s nomination for reasons other than those of some GOP colleagues. Other Republicans pushed for the Obama administration to first complete three free-trade agreements, which have recently been finalized. Inhofe, however, considers Bryson’s history troubling enough to hold him up.

Bryson, the former CEO of Edison International, was also chairman of the board of BrightSource Energy, a solar energy startup that received one of the biggest government-backed loan guarantees ever — a $1.6 billion guarantee to build a solar energy facility in California.

“With Solyndra right now, and everyone talking about that, this is no time to have someone who has also had a similar type of loan guarantee that Solyndra got,” Inhofe told TheDC.

Bryson was also a co-founder of the National Resources Defense Council, a left-leaning  environmentalist organization. “He isn’t just a supporter of it,” Inhofe emphasized. “He helped found it.”

Inhofe also said Bryson could not possibly affect the economy in a positive way as Commerce Secretary. “Why have a guy as Secretary of Commerce who’s against commerce?” Inhofe asked. Bryson opposes drilling for fossil fuels and hydrofracking natural gas deposits, the senator said, and wants to rely “solely on green energy where the technology does not exist yet.”

Bryson’s nomination was approved by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation.

Neither Reid’s office nor McConnell’s staff responded to The Daily Caller’s request for comment.

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Vishal Ganesan contributed reporting to this article.

This article has been updated.