Gregg's Appointment to Commerce on Track
By Anne E. Kornblut
Republican Sen. Judd Gregg is the leading candidate to become the next Commerce Secretary, a move that could happen in the next day or two, White House officials said on Saturday.
Gregg's selection and exit from the Senate would clear the way for the New Hampshire governor, John Lynch (D), to appoint a Democrat as his replacement - giving Pres. Barack Obama the 60-vote majority he needs for a filibuster-proof majority. But Lynch, a moderate, could appoint a Republican instead, filling the seat with a caretaker senator until the next election, in 2010.
Gregg acknowledged on Friday that he was under consideration for the post. Administration officials took it a step further, saying he is atop the list to fill a job that has sat empty since New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) withdrew his nomination because of an investigation involving government contracts.
For Obama, picking Gregg would bolster his argument that he is truly building a bi-partisan Cabinet. Gregg is a fiscal conservative, a longtime supporter of Sen. John McCain and a Republican Party stalwart, though his state has grown increasingly moderate in recent years. Two other Republicans - former Rep. Ray LaHood, the Transportation Secretary, and Robert Gates, the holdover Defense Secretary from the Bush administration - are already in place.
But Gregg would also bring more than bragging rights: he could help Obama sell entitlement and budget reform to a wary Congress and to the business community, of which Gregg has been a strong advocate. Gregg, a three-term senator, is former chairman of the Senate Banking Committee, and helped devise the $700 billion bank bailout package that passed last year.
Among the potential Republican candidates Lynch might consider to replace Gregg: Bonnie Newman, the former president of the University of New Hampshire; Doug Scamman, the former New Hampshire House Speaker; former Gov. Walter R. Petersen, Jr.; and former Attorney General Tom Rath. On the Democratic side, it is likely that the two members of Congress, Paul Hodes and Carol Shea Porter, would at least be considered. New Hampshire's other senator is Jeanne Shaheen, a Democrat who was elected in November.
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