Obama's Commerce Secretary Is Taking A Leave Of Absence After Having A Seizure And Causing Two Car Accidents

rebecca blankActing Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank

After a seizure that led to two traffic accidents over the weekend, John Bryson announced Monday night that he is taking a leave of absence from his position as Secretary of Commerce. That leaves Deputy Commerce Secretary Rebecca Blank as the Acting Secretary of Commerce for the second time in less than a year. 

Blank previously served in this role in 2011 from July through October, when she took over the position after President Barack Obama appointed then-Secretary Gary Locke to be the Ambassador to China. Obama had tapped Bryson, but his confirmation was held up in the Senate. 

Blank was confirmed as the Deputy Secretary of Commerce in March 2012. Some bullet points on her career before the Commerce Department:

  • Directly before arriving in the Commerce Department, Blank was a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and dean of the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan. 
  • Blank has written three books: It Takes A Nation: A New Agenda for Fighting Poverty (1996); Is The Market Moral? (2004); Changing Inequality (2011); and Insufficient Funds: Savings, Assets, Credit, and Banking Among Low Income Families (2011), co-authored with Michael Barr.
  • From 1997-1999, her White House biography says, Blank was one of three members of President Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers. 

In what now seems rather eerie, ABC noted on May 22 that Blank was next in line if “anything happens to Commerce Secretary John Bryson.”

Last year, Bloomberg’s Businessweek profiled her as someone who didn’t think additional stimulus was needed in the economy:

“She’s a very solid, careful thinker,” said William Gale, a tax policy specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington, who worked with her there. “I don’t think of her as ideological at all, I think of her as digging out what works and what’s effective.”

Here’s Bryson’s full memorandum announcing his leave of absence:

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.  During the period of my illness, I will not perform the functions and duties of my office.  Therefore, by operation of law, as my first assistant you will act in my stead for the duration of my absence. 

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