Commerce secretary to take medical leave after two car accidents

Commerce Secretary John Bryson will take a medical leave of absence after his involvement in two car accidents Saturday in Los Angeles, his department announced Monday night.

In a memo, Bryson, 68, said he had notified President Obama that he would be taking the leave, effective immediately, so that he could "focus all of my attention on resolving the health issues that arose over the weekend."

Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank will take over as acting Commerce secretary in Bryson's absence, the agency said.

Bryson's leave could put to bed an incident that served to distract the White House on Monday. 

In a separate statement, White House press secretary Jay Carney said Bryson would be undergoing tests and evaluations during the leave. 

Commerce announced Bryson had suffered a seizure over the weekend after his involvement in two traffic accidents, one of which is being investigated as a hit-and-run accident. It is not clear whether the seizure caused the accident. 

Bryson, who was back in Washington on Monday, has yet to be charged with the hit-and-run accident, according to officials at the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department.

The law enforcement officials told The Hill that Bryson took a Breathalyzer test after the second crash in Rosemead, which came back negative for alcohol. If a blood test shows he was not under the influence, there won’t be any criminal charges in the Rosemead crash, said Capt. Mike Parker of the L.A. County Sheriff’s office.

But Bryson still faces felony hit-and-run charges for the first crash, a spokeswoman said.

Police officials said they were not aware that Bryson suffered from any pre-existing conditions. But they said that the Commerce secretary could be in jeopardy of losing his driver’s license following the seizure.

A doctor would have to clear Bryson to drive following the seizure, law enforcement officials said.

Bryson was sworn in as Commerce secretary in October 2011. He previously worked as chairman and CEO of Edison International, a public utility company based in Southern California.