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Obama pick for deputy Commerce job to withdraw

President Barack Obama speaks at a school in Washington
President Barack Obama speaks at a school in Washington

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama's choice for the number two job at the Commerce Department has decided to withdraw his nomination because of continued delay in the Senate approval process, an administration official said on Wednesday.

"He is withdrawing his nomination today," the official said, referring to Terry Garcia, an executive vice president at the National Geographic Society who Obama nominated in May to become deputy Commerce secretary.

Senate Republicans have blocked action on a number of nominations to fill senior Commerce Department slots and other trade positions to put pressure on Obama to send three long-delayed free trade agreements to Congress for approval.

"He's been held up for no specific objection to him, his qualifications or background. We've seen this happen with a lot of our nominees, where there's an objection raised that has nothing to do with their qualifications," the official said.

Obama's choice to be Commerce secretary, former energy company executive John Bryson, has also been caught by the Republican action. Like Garcia, he was nominated in May.

Before joining the National Geographic Society in 1999, Garcia was assistant secretary of Commerce for oceans and atmosphere and deputy administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at the Department of Commerce. He also served as general counsel of NOAA.

Garcia became frustrated with the continued delay, despite recent progress in the Senate on a worker retraining program -- know as Trade Adjustment Assistance -- that may set the stage for Obama to send the trade pacts with South Korea, Panama and Colombia to Congress for votes.

However, there is still no deal between the White House and House Republican leaders over how to handle floor action on the TAA program and the three pending trade agreements.

(Reporting by Doug Palmer; editing by Eric Beech)

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