Senate approves former Wash. governor for Commerce - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Senate approves former Wash. governor for Commerce

WASHINGTON. - The Senate confirmed former Washington Gov. Gary Locke as commerce secretary today, handing President Barack Obama an easy victory after his first two nominees for the post withdrew.

The 59-year-old Locke was the nation's first Chinese-American governor, serving two terms from 1997 to 2005. He has promised to focus on job creation and to closely oversee the 2010 census.

Some Republican lawmakers have been critical of Obama administration comments indicating that the White House might seek greater control over the census.

Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said Locke "will bring strong leadership to the Commerce Department and understands the challenges many Americans face as we work to stabilize our economy."

Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., said that while most people think the job of commerce secretary is simply to represent U.S. business, it is much more.

Washington Gov. Chris Gregoire, who pushed for Locke's appointment, said she looks forward to "partnering with him in his new role as we work together to save and create jobs in and increase trade opportunities for Washington state."

Obama nominated Locke for the Commerce post last month, after his first two nominees withdrew. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson faced questions about the awarding of state contracts and

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire changed his mind about working for the Democratic president.

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