Entries in Department of Commerce (3)


Probe into Commerce Secretary's Traffic Mishaps Could Last a Month

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(LOS ANGELES) -- Don't expect any quick answers as to what really happened last weekend in the Los Angeles area when police said Commerce Secretary John Bryson was involved in a series of hit-and-run accidents.

The Commerce Department said that Bryson, who's been on the job only since last October, had a seizure and was given medication at a hospital.  Meanwhile, the 68-year-old Cabinet member has taken a medical leave of absence and transferred his duties to the deputy secretary.

Still, police have to do their job and commander Ray Leyva of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said on Tuesday that determining exactly what happened when Bryson allegedly banged his Lexus into a Pontiac twice and a Honda Accord could take up to four weeks.

While the initial police report said that neither drugs nor alcohol was involved, investigators will still need three to four weeks to verify that claim based on lab tests.

The investigation will likely be handled by the police department in San Gabriel, Calif., the scene of the first accident.

On Tuesday, the White House said that Bryson spoke to President Obama personally for the first time since the alleged incidents, but wouldn't disclose the nature of their conversation.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


US Commerce Secretary John Bryson Taking Medical Leave of Absence

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Commerce John Bryson is taking a medical leave of absence after a bizarre series of car accidents over the weekend in Los Angeles left him unconscious behind the wheel, and he was cited by police for leaving the scene of an accident -- a felony offense.

Bryson has not been charged and he passed a breathalyzer Saturday night.

"I notified President Obama this evening that effective immediately I am taking a medical leave of absence so that I can focus all of my attention on resolving the health issues that arose over the weekend," Bryson wrote in a memo to Deputy Secretary Dr. Rebecca Blank, who will take over for the time being.

A statement from the Commerce Department earlier Monday suggested that Bryson had some sort of seizure.  He was treated overnight Saturday and released on Sunday.

By Monday evening he had stepped down from his post for a medical leave.  It is not clear if the hiatus will be permanent.

"Secretary Bryson informed the White House tonight that he will be taking a medical leave of absence from his position as Commerce Secretary as he undergoes tests and evaluations," said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney in a statement.  "The President's thoughts are with Secretary Bryson and his family during this time.  Secretary Bryson assured the White House that the Commerce Department staff will not miss a beat in their work helping America's businesses compete."

Bryson was allegedly driving his Lexus traveling southbound on San Gabriel Boulevard at 5:05 p.m. Pacific Time when he rear-ended a Buick that had stopped and was waiting for a train to pass, authorities said.

Bryson got out of his car, spoke to the three males in the Buick, "then left the scene, hitting the same car as he left the scene," read a joint statement from the San Gabriel Police Department and Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.  "The three males followed him in their car while calling San Gabriel Police officers via 911 and asking for assistance."

In yet another bizarre twist to the story, about five minutes later, Bryson allegedly hit a Honda Accord containing a man and woman in the city of Rosemead and "was found alone and unconscious behind the wheel of his vehicle."

The law enforcement statement said that two of the three men in the Buick and one of the occupants of the Honda complained of pain as a result of the collisions.  The men in the Buick were treated by paramedics.  The statement said that the investigation was in its preliminary stages and "there is no indication that alcohol or drugs played a role in the collisions."

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Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


R.I.P., Department of Commerce? Obama Seeks to Consolidate Agencies

JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The U.S. Department of Commerce will celebrate its 109th anniversary this year, having been created in 1903. And if President Obama gets his way, the agency won’t make it much past 110.

Announcing Friday morning that he is seeking authority to streamline the executive branch, President Obama said he needs the same kind of “authority that every business owner has to make sure that his or her company keeps pace with the times.  And let me be clear: I will only use this authority for reforms that result in more efficiency, better service, and a leaner government.”

As an example, the president wants to shut down the Department of Commerce, taking its core functions and giving them to a new agency that will also fold in the tasks of the Small Business Administration, the U.S. Trade Representative, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and Development Agency, and the Export-Import Bank.

This new agency would be smaller than the sum of its previous parts by up to 2,0000 employees (which will be lost through attrition, the White House says), and saving $3 billion over the next decade, said Jeffrey Zients, head of management at the Office of Management and Budget.

The president noted that there are “five different entities dealing with housing; more than a dozen agencies involved in food safety.  And my favorite example, which I mentioned in last year’s State of the Union Address.  As it turns out, the Interior Department is in charge of salmon in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them in saltwater.  Apparently, this all had something to do with President Nixon being unhappy with his Interior Secretary for criticizing the Vietnam War, and so he decided not to put NOAA in what would have been a more sensible place.”

The president is as of Friday elevating SBA administrator Karen Mills to a cabinet-level position to head this new agency on a temporary basis until Congress deals with this proposal. The weather service provided by NOAA and housed in Commerce will become part of the Department of the Interior.

The Census Bureau, also part of Commerce, will combine with the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis, the Labor Department’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the National Science Foundation’s National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics and be housed in this new Cabinet-level agency.

The move might help GOP presidential candidate Governor Rick Perry, who has called for the elimination of three agencies – Commerce, Education, and Energy – but has seemed to struggle with remembering more of two of them.

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House Speaker John Boehner's staff issued this response:
“Given the President’s record of growing government, we’re interested to learn whether this proposal represents actual relief for American businesses or just the appearance of it. American small businesses are more concerned about this administration’s policies than from which building in Washington they originate.  We hope the President isn't simply proposing new packaging for the same burdensome approach. However, eliminating duplicative programs and making the federal government more simple, streamlined, and business-friendly is always an idea worth exploring.  We look forward to hearing more about his proposal.” –Brendan Buck, Boehner spokesman.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell's staff issued this response:
"Americans want a government that’s simpler, streamlined, and secure. So after presiding over one of the largest expansions of government in history, and a year after raising the issue in his last State of the Union, it’s interesting to see the President finally acknowledge that Washington is out of control. And while we first learned of this proposal this morning in the press, we'll be sure to give it a careful review once the White House provides us with the details of what it is he wants to do."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio