Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., has withdrawn from consideration for Commerce secretary. He would have been the third Republican in the cabinet and is the second nominee for Commerce to have withdrawn (New Mex. Gov. Bill Richardson was the first). According to the AP, Gregg gave as his reason “irresolvable conflicts” on issues including the economic stimulus package.
It’s possible that another issue was the Obama decision to move responsibility for the Census Bureau from Commerce to the White House. Because the census has implications for the redistricting that will occur in 2011, this was politically volatile and some Republicans had urged Gregg to withdraw from cabinet consideration over that issue.
Gregg’s confirmation would have had possible implications for the partisan makeup of the Senate, but not immediately, since the Democratic governor of New Hampshire had already announced his intention to appoint a caretaker Republican to serve the last two years of Gregg’s current term. Not clear at the moment whether Gregg will seek another term in 2012. (Instant update: At his press conference, Gregg was asked if he would run and answered “probably not.”)
UPDATE: White House Press Secty. Robert Gibbs released a statement on this. It implies that Gregg actually sought the Commerce job, rather than the Obamanians seeking him out. The statement rings of annoyance with Gregg (which would seem somewhat justified if it’s true that Gregg asked for the job). Here’s Gibbs:
“Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce. He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President’s agenda. Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama’s key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways. We regret that he has had a change of heart.”
Couple more updates: Gregg met the press. He spoke admiringly of Obama, predicted his would be a successful presidency, and emphasized that he had made a mistake, when thinking about the cabinet position, in not focusing soon enough and hard enough on what it would be like to be a conservative Republican in a Democratic administration, with which he would disagree on many important issues. Generally, he was gracious and took the blame for his mistake.
The Lehrer Newshour had Gov. Pawlenty on, first to react to the Gregg stuff, then to the stimulus bill. Pawlenty was totally sweetness and light. He commended Obama for reaching out to Republicans by offering them cabinet positions and commended Gregg for realizing that he had made a mistake and rectifying it. On stimulus, he took the pure Republican line, but did it with substance and civility. The bill would have received more GOP support if it had stuck to tax cuts and infrastructure projects. But he avoided the red-meatier attacks on the bill for being full of pork and the end of civilization, or at least the end of capitalism. He was respectful of the different approaches. Judy Woodruff asked him if it would be hypocritical of him to accept the federal money that flows to Minnesota from the bill since he opposes it. He said certainly not, and he’s right. The question was kinda silly.