Democrats say N.H.'s Gregg being weighed for top Commerce post
WASHINGTON - President Obama is considering nominating Republican Senator Judd Gregg as his commerce secretary, officials in Washington and New Hampshire said last night.
Senior Democrats say the New Hampshire senator is among the top of a list of those considered for Obama's Cabinet, although they emphasized that no move was imminent. They spoke on condition of anonymity because no decision has been made and they were not authorized to discuss the administration's thinking.
Gregg was the GOP's chief negotiator for the $700 billion bailout of the financial industry. That alone would deliver him a tough reelection bid in a state that has proved increasingly tough to Republicans.
Gregg would be Obama's second choice to run the commerce department. His first pick, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, took his name out of consideration amid a grand jury investigation over how state contracts were issued to political donors.
A Capitol Hill leadership aide said last evening that Obama has talked with his party's leaders about the move, which could put Democrats within reach of a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate if New Hampshire Governor John Lynch were to name a fellow Democrat. The Senate seat from Minnesota remains undecided, with Senator Norm Coleman and challenger Al Franken remaining in a close, court-based contest.
White House officials insisted yesterday that no decision had been made. It's also not clear if the moderate Lynch would pick someone out of party loyalty.
A senior New Hampshire Republican said officials in Washington should be cautious in hoping Lynch would automatically appoint a Democrat. During the state's first-in-the-nation presidential primary, Lynch attended events for Republican John McCain. He also named GOP star Kelly Ayotte his attorney general.
Gregg has said he planned to run for reelection in 2010.
A member of a New Hampshire political family and policy wonk, Gregg rose through the Senate ranks to serve as chairman of the powerful Budget Committee and the Appropriations subcommittee that funds homeland security. Now in the minority, he is the ranking Republican member on the budget committee but still has large sway in the GOP's response to Obama's legislative agenda.