Gregg Under Consideration for Commerce
Updated 12:56 p.m.
By Philip Rucker and Dan Eggen
Republican Sen. Judd Gregg said today he is under consideration by the White House to become commerce secretary, the last remaining post in President Obama's Cabinet.
The New Hampshire senator is among several leading contenders, including Symantec Corporation chief executive John Thompson, for the job that became open earlier this month after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew as Obama's nominee.
"I am aware that my name is one of those being considered by the White House for secretary of Commerce, and am honored to be considered, along with others, for the position," Gregg said in a statement released by his office today. "Beyond that there is nothing more I can say at this time."
If he picks Gregg, Obama would add another Republican to his administration as well as create a vacancy in the Senate that would be filled by New Hampshire's Democratic governor, John Lynch. If Lynch named a fellow Democrat to the seat -- and if Democrat Al Franken is declared the winner in the closely contested Minnesota race -- Democrats would have a 60-person, filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.
A respected fiscal guru in Congress, Gregg was one of the GOP's lead negotiators of the $700 billion Wall Street bailout. Gregg, 61, is heir to a prominent New Hampshire political family and was a businessman and attorney before entering politics. He was elected to Congress in 1980 and later served as the state's governor from 1989 until entering the Senate in 1993. Gregg is a former chairman of the Budget Committee, and in 2005 won $853,492 with a winning Powerball lottery ticket.
But his selection might also lead to tough questioning before the Senate. Gregg's name came up in connection with the uproar over improper hiring practices at the Justice Department during the Bush administration, including the selection of immigration judges. The department's inspector general found in a report issued last year that senior Justice officials used political and ideological affiliations in deciding whom to appoint as immigration judges, which are nonpartisan civil-service positions.
Gregg helped to secure one of those judgeships for a former campaign treasurer, Francis L. Cramer, who had less than six months of experience with immigration law and had previously been rejected as a tax court judge because of a lack of qualifications, according to the inspector general's report and other records. In a March 2004 e-mail, one Justice official asked a colleague to notify Gregg about Cramer's appointment because "this is the issue he'd been pushing with us," the report said.
The Government Accountability Office, a legislative watchdog, also criticized Cramer's appointment, saying that "converting a Schedule C [political] appointee with less than 6 months of immigration law experience to an immigration judge position raises questions about the fairness of the conversion."
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