Bloomberg News

Obama Nominee Bryson Sides With Republicans on Taxes, Rules

June 21, 2011

(Updates with comment from Bryson in third paragraph.)

June 21 (Bloomberg) -- John Bryson, President Barack Obama’s nominee for Commerce secretary, sided with Republicans in Congress, saying companies need lower taxes and that a labor complaint against Boeing Co. was “not sound.”

Bryson, facing questions from lawmakers who said Obama has produced costly regulations and failed to spur job growth, said today he would push as Commerce secretary to curb rules burdening companies, cut taxes and spur trade.

“I‘m committed to helping simplify regulations that are difficult to understand, eliminate regulations that are ineffective and speed up regulatory decisions so American businesses can have the certainty they need,’’ Bryson testified to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.

Bryson, 67, is a founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental group, and former chief executive officer of Edison International, the owner of California’s largest utility. Senators read a letter of support for Bryson from the Business Roundtable, which represents CEOs of companies such as Boeing. While Republicans questioned Obama’s policies, none said they would oppose Bryson’s nomination.

‘‘My question is whether you will have the courage to stand up against the most anti-business administration” in recent history, Senator Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, said before Bryson testified.

Boeing’s Board

Bryson served on the board of Boeing along with William Daley, who is now Obama’s chief of staff. Bryson defended today the decision by the Chicago-based company to add a nonunion assembly line in South Carolina.

Lafe Solomon, the National Labor Relations Board’s acting general counsel, filed a complaint on April 20 saying Boeing built the plant for its new 787 Dreamliner in retaliation for work stoppages by unions at its Seattle-area production hub. Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, has denied such motives.

“The best legal analysis I saw says this legal initiative” by the NLRB “is not sound,” Bryson said, when questioned by senators today.

Bryson joined Edison International in 1984 and was named CEO in October 1990. He retired in 2008.

Since September, Bryson has been chairman of BrightSource Energy Inc., an Oakland, California-based developer of solar power plants. He has served on the board of Boeing since 1995 and on that of Walt Disney Co., the world’s largest media company, since 2000, according to the companies’ websites.

‘Tremendous Drive’

Bryson has “tremendous drive and tremendous executive experience, and so looking at it from a rational point of view you are a gift to this country,” Senator Jay Rockefeller, a West Virginia Democrat, told Bryson. “You will be a needed voice in an administration that needs it more than it realizes.”

Rockefeller questioned Bryson’s support in the past for a measure to cap carbon emissions, and asked if he would “fight against coal.”

Bryson said he believed in "diverse sources of fuel, including in particular domestic sources of fuel,’’ citing a coal project his company had worked on in West Virginia. “The imperative now is enhancing our businesses in the U.S., and creating jobs. I will be focused on jobs.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Mark Drajem in Washington at mdrajem@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net


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