(Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP)

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) announced at a news conference with the American Conservative Union and Freedom Action that he is blocking John Bryson’s nomination because “economic growth in Oklahoma and across the nation could be in jeopardy.”

“With sky high unemployment and a struggling economy, who does President Obama choose to promote job growth?” Inhofe asked. “The founder of the radical Natural Resources Defense Council, a left-wing environmentalist organization, which in the name of global warming, seeks to increase drastically the price of electricity and gasoline across America. This is a recipe for disaster for our economy.”

Inhofe and some other Senate Republicans had previously expressed reservations about Bryson, the former electric utility executive who was tapped in May to head the Commerce Department. Bryson would succeed Locke, who is heading to Beijing to serve as U.S. ambassador to China.

Bryson has received the support of organizations including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which praised him as “a strong voice for American businesses.” The former Edison International CEO founded the National Resources Defense Council in 1970 and left the organization in 1974; his supporters have argued that the environmental group’s present-day mission differs from its aims 40 years ago.

In addition to opposition to Bryson’s tenure at NRDC, Senate Republicans had threatened to block his nomination unless Obama submitted three key trade deals to Congress. The White House and congressional leaders have since made progress on the South Korea, Colombia and Panama agreements, although there remains an impasse over the inclusion of a program aimed at assisting workers who have lost their jobs due to outsourcing.