Gregg to skip stimulus vote

GREGG TO SKIP STIMULUS VOTE…. In this case, not voting is practically the same as voting against.

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), the president’s pick for Commerce Secretary, just revealed during an interview with CNBC that he would recuse himself from congressional votes while his nomination is being considered by his former Senate colleagues.

It sounds like a harmless announcement — but what this effectively does is deny Senate Democrats a gettable GOP vote in favor of Obama’s stimulus bill at a time when they’re desperately in need of one.

Gregg isn’t giving up his seat until he’s poised to join the administration, he’s just not going to vote. As a practical matter, this undermines the administration’s goals — Republicans are apparently going to filibuster the stimulus package. Proponents will need 60 votes to pass the bill, which will necessarily mean the support of a couple of Republicans sympathetic to Obama’s recovery agenda. Presumably, that would include Gregg, since he’s joining the president’s economic team.

So why skip the vote? Hillary Clinton showed up while her nomination is pending; there’s no reason Gregg shouldn’t do the same.

Every vote — especially every moderate Republican vote — is going to matter a great deal. Gregg taking a pass, ostensibly on a package he supports, makes success less likely.

Update: Looks like Josh Marshall got there just a little ahead of me.

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Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.