Obama nominates Penny Pritzker and Michael Froman for Cabinet posts
The announcement comes ahead of a trip to Mexico and Costa Rica
Pritzker, an investment firm chief, has an estimated net worth of $1.85 billion
Froman is Obama's deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs
President Barack Obama filled out his Cabinet nominations on Thursday when he tapped Penny Pritzker as commerce secretary and Michael Froman as U.S. trade representative.
At an event in the White House Rose Garden, Obama heralded his two nominees as leaders with “extraordinary experience” who are about “growing opportunity” for the American middle class.
“One of the reasons I’m proud to nominate them is they don’t forget what matters,” Obama said standing between the two nominees. “They know this is not about just growing balance sheets, it’s about growing opportunity for people, it’s about growing a sense of security for the middle class. And most of all, they operate with integrity and they understand that that public service is a privilege and you’ve got to do it right when you get involved on behalf of the American people.”
If confirmed by the Senate, Pritzker and Froman would both step into economic posts although they have noticeably different backgrounds.
Pritzker, one of the wealthiest women in America, is an heiress to the Hyatt hotel fortune. She heads the investment firm PSP Capital Partners and an associated property firm, Pritzker Realty Group.
Forbes Magazine pegged her net worth at $1.85 billion as of March.
Pritzker is a longtime Obama donor who was national finance chairwoman of his 2008 presidential campaign and national co-chairwoman of the 2012 re-election effort.
Along with donations she solicited from other elite contributors as a “bundler,” Pritzker personally gave the Obama campaign and the Democratic National Committee $63,500 in 2008 and $117,400 in 2012, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
Froman is deputy national security adviser for international economic affairs. In that role, he has served as a liaison to global economic summits and advised the president on international finance.
Before working for the White House, Froman was an executive at Citigroup and was chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin in the 1990s.
Froman also attended Harvard Law School with Obama and was the editor of the school’s prestigious law review.
The president described Pritzker as “one of our countries most distinguished business leaders” and said Froman “has established himself as one of the world’s foremost experts on our global economy.”
“We went to law school together,” Obama said of Froman. “He was much smarter than me then; he continues to be smarter than me now.”
The announcements come ahead of the president’s trip to Mexico and Costa Rica, where Obama said Thursday he hopes to “deepen our economic and trade relationships across Latin America” and “offer our businesses growing markets where they can sell more American-made goods and services abroad. “
It’s unclear when the Senate will take up the nominations but they must first be addressed by relevant committees.
Pritzker is likely to face questions about her finances.
Sen. Charles Grassley, an Iowa Republican and a taxpayer watchdog, called for a Senate examination of her taxes in light of reports his office pointed to that suggested her family’s finances benefited from off-shore havens over the years.
“If the Commerce Committee doesn’t explore these questions with the nominee, I plan to do so, but I hope the committee will give the tax history a serious look,” he said in a statement.
If confirmed, Pritzker and Froman would replace acting secretaries.
Rebecca Blank has served as acting secretary of the Commerce Department since June 2012, She stepped into the role after John Bryson resigned less than two weeks after an episode involving a seizure and two traffic accidents.
Bryson had been on a medical leave of absence since his involvement in the auto accidents in California that his office said were linked to the seizure. In his resignation letter, he said his seizure was a “distraction from my performance as secretary” and that the country “would be better served by a change of leadership of the department.”
Ambassador Demetrios Marantis has served as acting U.S. trade representative since March 15 of this year, after Ron Kirk, a close confidant and regular golf partner to Obama, stepped down.
With Thursday’s announcements, Obama will have nominated people to all vacant Cabinet posts for his second term.
Four of Obama’s second-term nominations – Secretary of State John Kerry, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell – have already been confirmed by the Senate.
A number of Obama’s nominations have yet to be voted on by the Senate. These include labor secretary nominee Thomas Perez, transportation secretary nominee Anthony Foxx and energy secretary nominee Ernest Moniz.
CNN’s Dan Lothian and Jessica Yellin contributed to this report.