John Bryson's nomination to the position of Commerce Secretary hit a bump today - and part of what slowed him down again was his association 40 years ago with the beginning of the Natural Resources Defense Council.
It seems everyone forgot that after he was there when the idea of the NRDC started he also went on to run a major utility. Bryson tried to remind them: he vowed in a hearing last month that he would take care of business. "Businesses in our country are too often stifled by absolutely unnecessary, cumbersome regulation," Bryson said. "If confirmed, I will be a voice in the administration for simplifying regulation and eliminating those where the cost of regulation exceeds the benefit."
Over the last month, the Hill has barraged Bryson with concerns that his environmental views were too liberal. Also at the center of those concerns are comments he made about limiting carbon emissions - like, that he thought we should do it.
Senator James Inhofe objects, very simply, to all of that. Other Republicans have said they want to hold up Bryson's nomination while they negotiate over unrelated trade deals. Today Inhofe separately vowed to put a stranglehold on the Bryson nomination, saying he'd hold up Bryson because his nomination reveals President Obama "has no intention of backing down from his jobs-killing agenda.”
Senator Inhofe's two objections seem to be that:
- Bryson co-founded an environmental law group 40 years ago; and
- Bryson believes global warming is happening and had an opinion 2 years ago about how to implement cap and trade.
The first is a problem of symbolism. Nobody goes around calling the senior senator from Oklahoma "the guy who put Quaker Oats into receivership" - even though Senator Indofe did that more recently than Bryson worked for NRDC. But somehow the President's people lost the war of spin with Republicans about how to shorthand Bryson before the game got started.
As for the second thing. Bryson's opinion was that coal industry companies should get a break to minimize pain in the early years of a cap and trade scheme. That's not an environmentalist position. That's a moderate position. Accepting the scientific findings that support the idea that the earth is getting warmer and people are doing it? That's not radical. Is it?
I raised issues in early June that connect Bryson to California and our energy and environment future. So far talk around the Bryson nomination hasn't really even gotten there. Maybe it never will.