WASHINGTON – The Senate on Tuesday confirmed billionaire business executive Penny Pritzker to be commerce secretary, filling a vacancy that has stood since John Bryson resigned last summer.
The sweeping 97-1 vote installs Pritzker, a longtime friend of President Barack Obama, who raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for his presidential campaigns, at the Commerce Department in time to assist in trade talks with the European Union and Pacific Rim nations.
“She knows what it takes to build companies from the ground up, and she shares my belief in doing everything we can to help businesses and workers succeed and make America a magnet for good jobs,” Obama said in a statement.
Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., one of the Senate’s most liberal members, was the only vote in opposition.
Pritzker becomes the fourth woman serving as secretary in Obama’s current Cabinet. She is the wealthiest in the Cabinet by far, with Forbes estimating her net worth at $1.85 billion and ranking her as the 277th richest American. The commerce post has been vacant since Bryson resigned after saying he suffered a seizure that led to a series of traffic collisions.
Pritzker has led several companies and currently serves as chairwoman of investment firms Pritzker Realty Group and Artemis Real Estate Partners.