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John Bryson Resigns as Commerce Secretary

Commerce Secretary John Bryson has resigned from President Obama’s cabinet, less than two weeks after he got into a string of car accidents that he blamed on a seizure.

In his letter to President Obama, Bryson cites his “recent seizure and medical leave of absence” as the reason for his resignation. “I have concluded that the seizure I suffered on June 9th could be a distraction from my performance as Secretary and that our country would be better served by a change in leadership in the Department,” Bryson wrote. The President acknowledged the resignation in a statement.

Bryson, a former chairman of the parent company of Southern California Edison, was cited for felony hit-and-run in the car crashes, but never booked, because of his medical condition. The LAPD continues to investigate the incident.

Bryson becomes the latest in a long string of undistinguished Commerce Secretaries – all of them, really, in modern history – running a Department that has no compelling reason to exist. Its biggest sub-agencies, like the Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, don’t seem to belong under the heading of Commerce, and it has already been targeted for realignment by President Obama, into a merger with other trade and business-based agencies. With its leader resigning, this would be an excellent time to dissolve the department entirely, and push its component parts into where they intuitively should fall.

Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank will get her second go-round as acting secretary. After Gary Locke left the Commerce Department and before Bryson was confirmed, Blank held the position. And given Republican desires to allow confirmation of Presidential appointments, and the short Senate calendar, I would imagine that Blank will remain acting secretary for the rest of the year.

I hear Judd Gregg is available.

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David Dayen

David Dayen

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