Opinion: Republican Gregg pulls name from Obama’s Commerce job

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Well, back to the drawing board on a Commerce secretary for President Obama. (He’s speaking in Peoria at this moment and may not even know it’s official yet; his press folks certainly didn’t.)

But New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg has just withdrawn his name from the already-announced nomination to be the new secretary of Commerce. He cites irresolvible differences with his potential boss over the economic stimulus package and with the Census, which has now been moved over to White House control.


Bye-bye bi-bipartisanship.

Here’s how Gregg himself put it moments ago:

‘It has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me, as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns.’

A philosophical gap over fundamental issues. In GOP circles recently, grumbling grew louder over the move of Census from Gregg’s would-be department to the White House to satisfy Latino and other Democratic concerns, as The Ticket reported here Monday. But as one Republican operative put it Wednesday, ‘How would it go over if President Bush had put the Census under Karl Rove?’

Gregg’s withdrawal (see our news video by scrolling down or click on the ‘Read more’ line below) also walks on Obama’s economic stimulus message of the day, from his visit to Illinois to talk down the economy at Caterpillar, while praising his GOP secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and then by celebrating No. 1 Republican Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday in Springfield later.

Gregg’s departure before officially arriving also gives political cover to all the other Hill Republicans who’ve been opposing Obama on actual ideological grounds, not partisan. The immediate response from stunned Obama backers was to minimize the Commerce Department, only a week after stressing that Gregg’s nomination made the most bipartisan Cabinet ever.

In a hasty White House statement, officials said Gregg reached out to them for the Commerce job and indicated he could go along, and they now regret he can’t.

So three-plus weeks into his new administration, Obama’s working on Commerce Secretary No. 3. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pulled out of the nomination over anticipated troubles from a federal investigation of pay-to-play in his state’s government.

And ex-Sen. Tom Daschle had to withdraw from the Cabinet’s Health and Human Services post over years of unpaid taxes, a step that hampered Obama’s attempt that same day to recapture the initiative in the economic debate. Obama went on all major broadcast TV networks, saying he’d ‘screwed up.’

More details coming. Check back here.

--Andrew Malcolm

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