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Tuesday June 21, 2011 | 04:41 PM

Sen. Olympia Snowe wouldn’t say before this afternoon’s confirmation hearing which way she was leaning on the nomination of John Bryson to the secretary of commerce, but the Maine Republican seemed to like what she heard from the former California utility executive in response to her question this afternoon at the Senate's commerce committee hearing about curbing excessive government regulations.

Saying she “can’t underscore enough” the difficulties burdensome federal regulations present to businesses, large and small, Snowe said that she hoped Bryson, former CEO of Edison International, the parent company to Southeran California Edison and a co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council environmental advocacy organization, would use the job of commerce secretary to promote an agenda with President Obama that stresses regulator reform and demand more accountability from federal agencies.

Yes, agreed Bryson, saying, “I have lived adverse regulations,” in a reference to his time as a utility executive during California’s energy crisis a decade ago.

That, of course, doesn’t guarantee Snowe will vote for Bryson’s nomination in committee or on the Senate floor, but she seemed pleased with his answer. Snowe has a regulatory reform bill she has been pushing in the Senate, one she says goes farther than the regulatory overhaul agenda Obama is pursuing.

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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