COMMERCE SECRETARY GREGG?…. Since Bill Richardson withdrew from consideration to head the Commerce Department, it’s remained the only hole in the Obama cabinet. Oddly enough, this hasn’t made much of a difference.
The Obama administration has been floating the idea of naming Republican Sen. Judd Gregg (N.H.) to be Commerce Secretary, several Senate sources said Thursday.
The sources, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Gregg’s nomination was far from a done deal, but remains a serious possibility. Reached by phone, Gregg, the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, said he had no comment on whether he has been in talks with the White House about the post.
Roll Call isn’t the only outlet with the story. Democratic Senate aides told the Huffington Post that there is “a strong possibility” that Obama would extend the offer to Gregg; the Politico offers a similar report; and the New York Times notes that the White House has already “approached” Gregg about the cabinet job. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) acknowledged that he’d “heard” that Gregg was being considered seriously.
This would, of course, shake up the political world quite a bit should it come together. If Gregg leaves the Senate, his successor would be named by New Hampshire’s Democratic governor, John Lynch. This, coupled with Norm Coleman eventually giving up in Minnesota, would give Senate Democrats a 60-vote caucus — the number of votes needed to end GOP filibusters. Obama would also get at least nominal bipartisan credibility for having three Republicans — Gregg, LaHood, and Gates — in his cabinet.
What’s in for Gregg? I would imagine that job security is a consideration. Gregg’s up for re-election next year in New Hampshire, a state that’s trending very “blue,” and he’d likely face a major challenge from Rep. Paul Hodes (D). Gregg would probably be the favorite, but he might see Obama’s cabinet as an attractive alternative to a possible defeat. For that matter, Gregg, a relative moderate by modern GOP standards, may also see the writing on the wall — it’s less fun being in the Senate when you’re part of a small minority that’s getting smaller. And if Gregg sees the congressional Republican caucus falling off a far-right cliff, he may decide it’s time to break free.
If this moves forward, expect to see the Republican establishment put intense pressure on Gregg to turn down Obama’s offer, if one is extended. The Senate GOP wants that 41st vote badly, and will no doubt beg, plead, and bribe Gregg to stay right where he is.