President Obama introduced GOP Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire as his choice for commerce secretary this morning, saying that Gregg is the right person to help create jobs during and after the economic recovery.
Obama said Gregg has "seen from all angles" how the economy works best, starting from when he saw his father Hugh, like him a former governor, run a small business in Nashua, N.H. Gregg is also "famous or infamous" on Capitol Hill for his fiscal discipline, the president said.
While he and Gregg don't agree on everything -- including who should have won the November election -- they agree on the need to lift people out of the recession, Obama said.
"With the stakes this high, we cannot afford to get trapped in the same partisan gridlock," said Obama, who used the opportunity to again make a sales pitch for his stimulus package.
After thanking Obama for what he called a "rather extraordinary step," Gregg praised Obama's "bold" stimulus plan.
"This is not a time for partisanship," Gregg said. "This is a time to govern, and govern well."
Gregg also thanked New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Democrat, who is expected to name a Republican to serve out the remaining two years in Gregg's term. The most-mentioned possibility is J. Bonnie Newman, a former Reagan administration official.
Lynch has scheduled a news conference for 4:30 p.m. today to announce his pick to replace Gregg.
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs acknowledged that New Hampshire Governor John Lynch talked to the Obama team about the Gregg nomination.
But Gibbs denied that the White House had any role in Lynch's decision of who should replace Gregg.
Meanwhile, Representative Carol Shea-Porter addressed early speculation that she would run for Gregg's seat in 2010.
"It is still very early and I am focused on my work for New Hampshire and the country," Shea-Porter said in a statement.
Obama's first choice for the job, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democrat, withdrew amid an investigation of state contracts and political donations.
If confirmed, Gregg would be the third Republican in Obama's cabinet, following Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who stayed on from the Bush administration, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former Illinois congressman.
Even before his name was bandied about for commerce secretary, Gregg had emerged as a key ally for Obama on economic policy. While many congressional Republicans had slammed Obama's stimulus plan in particular, Gregg had called for a bipartisan approach to the nation's economic crisis.
Gregg, 61, has been in elected office since 1979, the last 16 in the Senate.
Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney praised Obama's selection of Gregg.
"Senator Judd Gregg is an excellent choice for Commerce Secretary. He will bring a much-needed sense of fiscal discipline to the affairs of the executive branch, and an appreciation of the need to adopt policies that encourage job growth and creation. Having distinguished himself through a long career of service to the people of New Hampshire, Senator Gregg now has a chance to put that service to work for a grateful nation."
The full remarks of Obama and Gregg, as released by the White House, are below:
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning, everybody. By now, our economic crisis is well-known. Our economy is shrinking. Unemployment rolls are growing. Businesses and families can't get credit, and small businesses can't secure the loans they need to create jobs and get their products to market.
Now is the time for Washington to act with the same sense of urgency that Americans all across the country feel every single day. With the stakes this high, we cannot afford to get trapped in the same old partisan gridlock. That's why I've worked closely with leaders of both parties on a recovery and reinvestment plan that saves or creates more than three million jobs over the next two years, cuts taxes for 95 percent of American workers, and makes critical investments in our future -- in energy and education; health care and a 21st century infrastructure.
We will act swiftly and we will act wisely. The vast majority of the investments in the plan will be made within the next 18 months -- immediately creating jobs and helping states avoid painful tax hikes and cuts to essential services. And every dime of the spending will be made available to the public on Recovery.gov -- so every American can see where their tax dollars are going.
But as we act boldly and swiftly to shore up our financial system and revitalize our economy, we must also make sure that the underpinnings of that economy are sound; that our economic infrastructure is rebuilt to handle the traffic of the global economy; that our cutting-edge science and technology remain the envy of the world; that our policies promote the innovative and competitive nature of this economy, and facilitate the incubation and commercialization of our startups and small businesses -- the very engine of our job creation.
These are the tasks of the Commerce Department. And I believe that Judd Gregg is the right person to help guide the department towards these goals.
Judd discovered the family business at an early age. His father, Hugh Gregg, was elected the youngest governor of New Hampshire when Judd was a boy. At a time when the mills in Nashua closed down and folks were laid off, he watched his dad work tirelessly to attract new industry, the kind that created jobs that carried with them a sense of dignity and self-worth. Judd's father even found the time to publish a book titled, "All I Learned About Politics" -- and in keeping with his legendary sense of humor, all of its pages were blank.
When the book is written about Judd Gregg, it will tell the story of a man with his own proud record of service on behalf of the American people. As a businessman, attorney, state executive councilor, congressman, governor in his own right, and now as a senator, he's seen from all angles what makes our economy work for communities, businesses, and families -- and what keeps it from working better. As former chairman of the Senate Budget Committee and Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, Judd has been involved in nearly every facet of public policy. And as Commerce Subcommittee chair on the Senate Appropriations Committee, he's already quite familiar with the department I've chosen him to lead.
Judd is famous -- or infamous, depending on your perspective -- on Capitol Hill for his strict fiscal discipline. It's not that he enjoys saying "no" -- although if it's directed at your bill you might feel that way -- it's that he shares my deep-seated commitment to guaranteeing that our children inherit a future they can afford.
Clearly, Judd and I don't agree on every issue -- most notably who should have won the election. (Laughter.) But we agree on the urgent need to get American businesses and families back on their feet. We see eye to eye on conducting the nation's business in a responsible, transparent, and accountable manner. And we know the only way to solve the great challenges of our time is to put aside stale ideology and petty partisanship, and embrace what works.
As one of the Republican Party's most respected voices and skillful negotiators, Judd is a master of reaching across the aisle to get things done. He'll be an outstanding addition to the depth and experience of my economic team, a trusted voice in my Cabinet, and an able and persuasive ambassador for industry who makes it known to the world that America is open for business.
"Commerce defies every wind, overrides every tempest, and invades every zone." These are the words carved into the walls of the department that I'm so pleased Judd Gregg has agreed to lead. And as we act boldly to defy the winds of this crisis and outride the tempest of this painful moment, I can think of no finer steward for our nation's commerce. I expect the Senate's quick confirmation of their esteemed colleague, and I look forward to working with Judd in the years ahead.
And I'd like Judd to say just a few words.
SENATOR GREGG: Thank you, Mr. President.
Thank you very much, Mr. President, and thank you for taking this rather extraordinary step of asking me to join your administration as Commerce Secretary.
We are, as you noted, in the middle of a very difficult economic time. People are worried about their jobs. They're worried about how they're going to pay their bills. They're worried about how they're going to send their kids to college. And you've outlined an extraordinarily bold and aggressive, effective and comprehensive plan for how we can get this country moving.
This is not a time for partisanship. This is not a time when we should stand in our ideological corners and shout at each other. This is a time to govern and govern well. And therefore, when the President asked me to join his administration and participate in trying to address the issues of this time, I believed it was my obligation to say yes, and I look forward to it with enthusiasm.
The Commerce Department is a -- has a broad and interesting portfolio, as the President outlined, but its primary goal must be to create jobs by promoting industry, promoting economic activity, and promoting excellence in science. And I intend to pursue those avenues aggressively.
I want to especially thank my wife, Kathy, and my family for encouraging me to do this and being willing to stand by me as I take on another effort in my career. And I also want to thank the Governor of New Hampshire for his courtesy and courage in being willing to make this possible through the agreement that we have relative to my successor in the Senate.
Again, Mr. President, I thank you for choosing me to participate in this effort. Let's go out there and get this country moving. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: All right. Thank you, guys.
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.