President Obama’s beleaguered economic team took another blow Thursday with the announcement that Commerce Secretary John Bryson has resigned, ending a brief tenure that came to a close after he got into a series of car accidents in Southern California two weeks ago.
Mr. Obama said he accepted Mr. Bryson’s resignation Wednesday night, after the 68-year-old commerce secretary had been on medical leave for the past two weeks.
“I want to extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to John for his service over the past months, and wish him and his family the very best,” the president said in a statement.
Mr. Bryson said that Rebecca Blank, who’s been serving as acting secretary since he began the leave of absence on June 11, would continue to serve in that role.
“The work that you do to help America’s entrepreneurs and businesses build our economy and create jobs is more important now than ever, and I have come to the conclusion that I need to step down to prevent distractions from this critical mission,” Mr. Bryson said.
He had suffered what the Commerce Department described as several seizures while driving back home in California on the weekend of June 8-10. Mr. Bryson’s medical scare was said to have caused three automobile accidents, from which he is said to have fled the scene.
The president said Mr. Bryson “fought tirelessly for our nation’s businesses and workers, helping to bolster our exports and promote American manufacturing and products at home and abroad.”
“John has proven himself an effective and distinguished leader throughout his career in both the public and private sectors, from his success in the business world to his work leading on issues in the renewable-energy industry” Mr. Obama said.
Mr. Bryson took over at Commerce only in October, when he replaced Gary Locke, who had left to become ambassador to China. Mr. Bryson’s departure continues the high rate of turnover on the president’s economic team.
Among the high-profile economic advisers who have left the Obama administration are Austan Goolsbee, Lawrence H. Summers and Christina Romer, who helped to guide the president’s $825 billion economic-recovery plan but didn’t deliver on an early promise to bring unemployment below 8 percent. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner is one of the few remaining leaders of Mr. Obama’s original economic team.
Mr. Obama did not address whether he would nominate someone to replace Mr. Bryson, only that he is confident Ms. Blank “will serve the American people well as acting secretary and that the Commerce Department staff will continue their tireless work putting forward policies that help our workers and businesses compete.”
At Commerce, Mr. Bryson was pushing the president’s trade agenda and promoting alternative-energy policies, two priorities that Mr. Obama views as key to rebuilding the domestic manufacturing sector.
Prior to joining the Cabinet, Mr. Bryson served as chairman and chief executive of Edison International, a California energy firm. He is also a former chairman of BrightSource Energy Inc., which received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee for solar energy in 2011, the Wall Street Journal reported.