Obama's nomination of Bryson initially had run into opposition from Senate Republicans who threatened to withhold support until three long-awaited trade pacts came to fruition. Congress approved the trade agreements last week.
With Obama poised to sign the trade deals with South Korea, Panama and Colombia into law Friday, the nomination cleared the Senate. The vote was 74 to 26.
Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said Bryson was “well suited” for his new role. Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said he was an “exceptional choice.”
But Republicans criticized Bryson's views as out of step with American business owners, even as the former energy executive won support from leading business organizations, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) called Bryson “the wrong person at the worst time.”
Bryson served as the chief executive of Edison International and spent several years as president of the California Public Utilities Commission. He co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council, giving him environmental credentials that put him at political odds with some GOP senators.
He will replace Gary Locke, who resigned to become U.S. ambassador to China.