WASHINGTON--Commerce nominee Penny Pritzker breezed through her confirmation hearing on Thursday with both top senators on the Commerce committee, Democratic Jay Rockefeller and Republican John Thune predicting she will be confirmed by the full Senate.
"I suspect she will do pretty well when it comes to a vote," Thune said after the hearing. "..There is pretty good support on both sides for her nomination," Thune said, "barring anything unforeseen."
Rockefeller said, "I think she did great, I mean she was so thoroughly prepared," he said after the hearing. He said a committee vote is expected next month.
Pritzker's hearing lasted a little more than two hours and included no fireworks and only light questioning on the three topics where she could have faced some grilling, the failure of the Superior Savings and Loan in Hinsdale, off shore tax avoidance family trusts and stormy labor relations between Hyatt Hotels and the union representing hotel workers.
Thune pressed Pritzker on the Superior failure, asking her "what do you have to say to those depositors who lost significant sums of money because of this venture and what lessons did you learn from your experience at Superior Bank that will inform your role as secretary of Commerce, if you're confirmed?
Pritzker replied, "Well, Senator, I regret the failure of Superior Bank. It was not an outcome or a situation that I'm -- you know, I feel very badly about that. The lessons that I've learned are really about good management, good governance structure, the importance of diversification and risk management, transparency and having a solid governance.''
Thune had no follow-up questions on Superior. After the hearing, talking to reporters, he said he had sent question to Pritzker on Superior and had received replies. Those exchanges are not yet part of any public record and were not released on Thursday.
Thune also asked Pritzker on off shore trusts. That's a sore point for Republicans since Democrats went after GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney on off shore trusts during the presidential campaign.
Last year, Pritzker earned $53.6 million from a family trust in the Bahamas--created by her grandfather when she was a child.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has raised the most questions about Pritzker and off-shore trusts but he is not a member of the Commerce panel.
Thune picked up the baton for him at the hearing.
"I'm going to channel Senator Grassley," Thune said in framing his question for Pritzker. "But some have criticized the fact that you're a beneficiary of some offshore tax avoidance schemes and that it's hypocritical for the president to nominate cabinet members who've benefited from offshore tax havens when he's criticized that practice for others. How do you respond to that criticism?
Pritzker replied, "Well, Senator, I am the beneficiary of offshore family trusts that were set up when I was a little girl. I didn't create them. I don't direct them. I don't control them. I have asked the trustee to appoint and -- remove themselves and to appoint a U.S. trustee. But I have complied with all of the disclosure obligations, et cetera, that have been required of me in this process."
Thune asked no follow-up questions.