Chairman Rockefeller Remarks on Today's Nominations Hearing

June 21, 2011

Chairman Rockefeller asks Sec. Locke questions about strengthening manufacturing in America.WASHINGTON, D.C.—We have two distinguished nominees before us today. First is John Bryson of California. Mr. Bryson is nominated to be the next Secretary of Commerce. Our second nominee, Terry Garcia of Florida, is nominated to be the Deputy Secretary of the Department of Commerce.

Much of the conversation today is going to focus on Mr. Bryson, who has a varied and impressive resume and a background running a utility company. That background is more important than ever. 

But some have raised concerns about Mr. Bryson’s experience as a founding member of an environmental advocacy organization that has, at times, used very aggressive tactics, including suing Mr. Bryson and his company. Others have raised concerns about his support for a 2009 proposal to cap emissions, which was a position widely held in the utility industry, but a bill I opposed. That said, I had a productive and positive meeting with Mr. Bryson last week when he visited my office, and I have great respect for his desire to serve our country. I believe he has the capacity to restore jobs and manufacturing in America.

The nominations of Mr. Bryson and Mr. Garcia come at an important crossroads for the country and for the Commerce Department. With high unemployment and a slow economic recovery, the Commerce Secretary and Deputy Secretary play a big role in supporting jobs and our economy. If confirmed, they would have a steep challenge.

I have long fought for a stronger manufacturing sector in this country. Manufacturing has been hit hard over the last decade—losing nearly one-third of its workforce—and the government’s response has been piecemeal. 

This needs to change. If the next decade is as bad for manufacturing jobs as the previous one, we will have little left of the sector to save. This has grave national security implications and could cripple our ability to out-innovate and out-compete other countries. 

This year, the Commerce Committee held two hearings on this issue. Next week, I am holding a field hearing in West Virginia on exporting products made in America. For the foreseeable future, I intend to use this committee to find ways to make manufacturing a spark in our job-creation agenda.

Finally, the Commerce Department is responsible for much more than promoting American businesses. For example, almost two-thirds of the Department’s budget is dedicated to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). I want to hear about Mr. Bryson’s views on the Administration’s reorganization proposal, NOAA’s weather satellites, and the Department’s cybersecurity efforts. 

I look forward to hearing from both our nominees today.