The Senate confirmed former electric utility executive John E. Bryson as commerce secretary late Thursday, filling a key jobs post that had been vacant since Gary Locke left the Commerce Department to become ambassador to China in July.

President Obama nominated Bryson in May, but Republicans held up the confirmation until Congress approved free-trade agreements with South Korea, Panama and Colombia. With the trade deals approved last week, the Senate confirmed Bryson on a vote of 74 to 26.

Bryson was the chief executive of Edison International for nearly 20 years and served on the boards of Boeing and Walt Disney Co. He is known as an energy advocate and a proponent of nuclear power but also as a strong environmentalist who co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council.

Bryson’s nomination received support from both business leaders and environmental advocates. Senators said they were convinced he was a good choice to head the department in a time of economic turmoil.

— Rosalind S. Helderman