And here we thought Senate Republicans were sharpening their knives for Penny Pritzker, the billionaire hotel and real-estate magnate who President Obama nominated to be his Commerce Secretary. But during her first Capitol Hill hearing on Thursday, they seemed to have donned kid gloves just for the occasion.
The session at the Senate Commerce Committee was downright nice, with so many “I-look-forward-to-working-with-you”s and the like that you’d swear that they, well, looked forward to working with her.
Sure, Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) pressed her about a touchy topic for her, the failure in the 1990s of Superior Bank, which her family co-owned.
But for the most part, it was a quite affable affair.
Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) offered her a compliment: “You know more about that than most anyone else in this room,” he said about efforts to encourage foreign tourism.
Even the oft-blustery Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) said he had “enjoyed visiting” with her earlier in the week and seemed admiring of something she had said in that meeting. “In the course of that conversation,” he recalled, “You said you were an enthusiastic and unapologetic advocate of free trade.” He added that he thought the Obama administration had not been “vigorous” enough in promoting free trade, but hoped Pritzker could be a good influence.
And it was a likely ally, Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), who seemed to be the only one to address one factor that might prove problematic for Pritzker’s nomination — her massive wealth. “It’s obvious you’re not here for a paycheck,” McCaskill said.