Senate confirms Penny Pritzker to head Commerce Department

In a nearly unanimous vote, the Senate on Tuesday confirmed billionaire hotel and real-estate magnate Penny Pritzker to become the next commerce secretary.

(J. Scott Applewhite/AP) - The Senate confirmed Penny Pritzker to head the Commerce Department.
(J. Scott Applewhite/AP) – The Senate confirmed Penny Pritzker to head the Commerce Department.

Pritzker, an heiress to the Hyatt hotel fortune, served as national finance chair of President Obama’s 2008 campaign, as co-chair for his 2012 reelection bid, and as a former member of his Council for Jobs and Competitiveness and his Economic Recovery Advisory Board. The Senate voted 97-1 to confirm her, with Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) as the lone dissenting vote.

Obama applauded the Senate’s backing in a statement on Tuesday. “Penny is a proven leader, a successful entrepreneur, and one of the most accomplished and highly-respected women in business today,” he said. “She knows what it takes to build companies from the ground up, and she shares my belief in doing everything we can to help businesses and workers succeed and make America a magnet for good jobs.”

Pritzker is chairman and CEO of the investment firm PSP Capital Partners. She also chairs Artemis Real Estate Partners and serves as director of the Hyatt Hotels Corporation, in addition to being a trustee of Stanford University and the Kennedy Center in Washington.

As an entrepreneur, Pritzker founded Vi Living, a chain of high-end retirement communities, and The Parking Spot, which provides parking near airports. She earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard University and holds a joint law-MBA degree from Stanford.

Sen. John D. Rockefeller (D-W.V.), chairman of the Senate committee that oversees the Commerce Department, called Pritzker “a force of nature” in a congratulatory statement on Tuesday.

“The unanimous bipartisan support she received in the Committee, and the decisive 97-1 bipartisan vote today by the full Senate, reflects our confidence that she will be a highly successful driver for growth and change,” Rockefeller said. “I look forward to working with Ms. Pritzker on the nation’s most pressing issues – from creating jobs to leveling the playing field for American workers – so that our nation can remain competitive now and in the future.”

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers the federal government and anchors the Federal Eye blog. He reported for newspapers in the Detroit and Seattle suburbs before joining the Post as a contributor to Glenn Kessler’s Fact Checker blog in 2011.
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Josh Hicks · June 25, 2013