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US Senate confirms Pritzker to head Commerce Dept.

US President Barack Obama stands with Penny Pritzker during an event in Washington, DC, on May 2, 2013
US President Barack Obama stands with Penny Pritzker during an event at the White House in Washington, DC, on May 2, 2013. The Senate on Tuesday confirmed the Chicago billionaire Pritzker as the new secretary of commerce.

The US Senate on Tuesday confirmed President Barack Obama insider and Chicago billionaire Penny Pritzker as the new secretary of commerce.

Pritzker, a Hyatt hotels heiress, was the national finance chairwoman of Obama's 2008 campaign and national co-chair of his reelection campaign.

Her longtime status as a member of Obama's inner circle was seen as a potential stumbling block, and she drew concerns from Democrats over Hyatt's testy relationship with a hotel labor union that has a long-running dispute with the chain founded by Pritzker's family.

But her nomination process was relatively trouble-free, even as other Obama picks such as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel underwent intense scrutiny.

Pritzker was confirmed 97-1, with independent Senator Bernie Sanders the lone no vote.

Pritzker, 54, replaces John Bryson, who resigned nearly a year ago for medical reasons.

"Penny is a proven leader, a successful entrepreneur, and one of the most accomplished and highly-respected women in business today," Obama said in a statement after the Senate confirmation.

Obama is still seeking confirmation for a number of his picks for slots in his second-term cabinet.

Charlotte Mayor Anthony Foxx, Obama's nominee to be transportation secretary, could be voted on as soon as this week.

Obama's pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Gina McCarthy, has encountered push-back from Republicans concerned that she was not forthcoming to a Senate panel with what she knew about Obama's climate policy, including his call Tuesday for new restrictions on power plants to curb carbon emissions.

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