Jamie Dupree's Washington Insider

Posted: 8:59 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 10, 2013

Still no new Commerce Secretary 

By Jamie Dupree

Think about where you work now or have worked in the past. Imagine if there was no boss of your organization for six months. Yes, there was still someone technically in charge, but no one was officially in the top job, just a senior manager temporarily taking on that position.

Now imagine if that "acting" job for six months was a top Cabinet position in the Obama Administration.

That's what we have at the Commerce Department.

As President Obama this week began filling upcoming vacancies in his Cabinet, I started reviewing which Cabinet positions were open, focusing on posts like Defense Secretary, Secretary of Treasury and State.

These are jobs that were filled even before they were officially vacant, testament to their importance.

But unlike the effort to fill those positions, it has been almost six months since Commerce Secretary John Bryson left his post in the Obama Administration, and no one has been nominated to replace him yet.

Bryson resigned in June because of health concerns; he had suffered a seizure while driving in California, leading to a pair of minor car accidents.

After Bryson resigned, President Obama elevated Rebecca Blank as Acting Secretary; she is currently a Deputy Secretary of Commerce.

It was actually the second time that Blank had been "Acting" Secretary, as she performed the same fill-in work in 2011 when Commerce Secretary Gary Locke moved to the job of U.S. Ambassador to China. Locke was soon replaced by Bryson.

But this second opening has not been filled as fast, as Blank has now been in the "Acting" job for nearly six months, steering a department that has around 47,000 employees worldwide and a budget of about $8 billion.

The Commerce Department has a wide range of responsibilities, everything from the Census Bureau to the Patent and Trademark Office, the National Weather Service and various efforts to promote U.S. business growth here at home and around the world.

You could argue that the President didn't fill the job because it was just a few months before the November elections; but now that's in the past.

And on Inauguration Day, it will be six months since the Commerce Secretary left his post.

As the President has moved to fill a series of Cabinet vacancies for his second term, the Commerce Department job has received little public attention; most reporters in Washington, D.C. would be hard pressed to name any past Commerce Secretary, let alone the current temporary leader of the Department.

Would the Defense Secretary's job go unfilled for six months? Secretary of State? Treasury Department?

I'll let you leave comments below.

Jamie Dupree

About Jamie Dupree

Jamie Dupree is the Radio News Director of the Washington Bureau of the Cox Media Group and writes the Washington Insider blog.

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