REUTERS - Republican Senator Judd Gregg said on Thursday he was withdrawing as President Barack Obama's nominee to be Commerce secretary, another blow to the president's attempt to broaden support across party lines.
Gregg said he pulling out because of differences with the Democratic president over issues including the economic stimulus package and the country's census, which the Commerce Department would be responsible for implementing.
"Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns," the New Hampshire senator said in a statement.
"We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy," he said. "Obviously the president requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives."
Gregg said there was nothing in background checks that had played a role in his decision, a problem that has plagued other nominees.
The withdrawal will send Obama to the well for a second time to look for a new commerce secretary. His first pick, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, withdrew because he was facing a legal inquiry.
In addition to these two withdrawals, Obama has seen two high-profile nominations implode because of tax problems -- former Senator Tom Daschle to head the Department of Health and Human Services and Nancy Killefer to be the country's chief performance officer.
Obama's Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner, barely squeaked through his Senate confirmation process because he failed to pay certain taxes on time.
On the census, several Republicans in Congress have complained the Obama administration was taking control of the count away from the Commerce Department -- a politically sensitive move as the 2010 census will help determine redistricting of congressional seats.
Gregg had said he wanted to vote for Obama's economic stimulus plan as it was being developed, but when he was nominated by Obama earlier this month he did not participate in votes as the measure worked its way through the Senate.
The New Hampshire lawmaker, seen as a moderate representing a state that has increasingly shifted toward supporting the Democratic party, was welcomed with open arms by his Republican colleagues in the Senate.
"Senator Gregg made a principled decision to return and we're glad to have him," said Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.