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Obama to name a Republican to commerce chief

Latest update : 2009-02-03

US President Barack Obama is set to name Judd Gregg, a Republican Senator, as commerce secretary, said a White House official Monday. In the president's bid for greater bipartisanship, Gregg would be the third prominent Republican on his cabinet.

REUTERS - President Barack Obama will name a third prominent Republican to his cabinet on Tuesday, nominating Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire as commerce secretary, a White House official said on Monday.

A respected lawmaker and accomplished negotiator, Gregg, 61, is the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and could help the Democratic Obama administration achieve its goal of moving Congress from partisan bickering to consensus building.

“The president plans to nominate Senator Gregg as his nominee for commerce secretary tomorrow,” said a White House official who spoke condition of anonymity.

Gregg could help Obama soften resistance among Republicans opposed to the terms of an $800 billion-plus economic stimulus package the new president is trying to push through Congress.

Gregg has a reputation as a fiscal conservative respected by both sides of the political aisle. He helped craft the Wall Street bailout last year and was one of a handful of Republicans who voted to release the second half of the $700 billion financial rescue package to Obama.

If confirmed by the Senate, Greg would join two other prominent Republicans in what will be Obama’s 15-member cabinet.

They are Defense Secretary Robert Gates, a holdover from the Bush administration, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former member of the House of Representatives    As head of the Commerce Department, Gregg would help promote U.S.  business at home and around the world and would have a voice in crafting administration policy.

POLITICAL CALCULATIONS

Although Gregg said he would not take the cabinet job if it would give the Democrats a legislative advantage in the Senate, New Hampshire Governor John Lynch appeared to clear the way for his Gregg’s cabinet appointment, at least politically.

“I have made it clear to the Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle and to the governor that I would not leave the Senate if I felt my departure would cause a change in the makeup of the Senate,” The New York Times quoted Gregg as saying.

Lynch, a Democrat, indicated in a brief statement that he would yield to Gregg’s demands and appoint a Republican to replace him in the Senate.

If Gregg was replaced by a Democrat and Minnesota’s Al Franken survives a court challenge of his apparent victory, Democrats would have 60 seats in the Senate, enough to ram through Republican procedural roadblocks.

Obama’s first pick for commerce secretary, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, withdrew from consideration in January in the face of a legal inquiry in an embarrassing misstep for the the incoming administration.

Until last week, Silicon Valley executive John Thompson, the chairman and chief executive of Symantec Corp, had been described as the leading candidate but Obama later turned from him to Gregg.

Date created : 2009-02-03

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