POLITICS: White House

Obama taps fundraiser Penny Pritzker for Commerce, Froman for trade post

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,White House,Brian Hughes,Barack Obama,Commerce,Campaign Finance

President Obama on Thursday nominated Chicago businesswoman Penny Pritzker to be his next commerce secretary and close ally Michael Froman for United States trade representative, rounding out his second-term Cabinet picks.

Obama and Pritzker have a long history together. And the billionaire helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for Obama’s presidential campaigns.

Her confirmation isn’t a sure bet. In addition to GOP concerns, liberals will focus on Pritzker’s stint as director of the Hyatt Hotels Corp. — the hotel chain has had a tenuous relationship with labor unions.

“Penny is one of our country’s most distinguished business leaders,” Obama said from the Rose Garden. “She’s got more than 25 years of management experience… She’s built companies from the ground up. She knows from experience that no government program alone can take the place of a great entrepreneur.”

Commerce was the final vacancy needing to be filled in Obama’s second-term Cabinet. The commerce post has remained vacant since former Secretary John Bryson resigned following a traffic accident caused by a seizure.

Pritzker was also a member of Obama’s jobs council, which was discontinued at the start of the president’s second term — much to the chagrin of Republicans.

Froman, a veteran from President Clinton’s administration, now serves as an assistant to the president and deputy national security advisor for international economics. He was the chief White House negotiator in completing trade agreements with South Korea, Colombia and Panama.

Obama said that Froman, a law school classmate, had “established himself as one of the world’s foremost experts on our global economy.”

And Obama gave his longtime friend Pritzker an unconventional birthday gift.

“For your birthday present, you get to go through confirmation,” Obama joked. “It’s going to be great.”

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