It was a puzzle how a fiscal hawk like Judd Gregg, the Republican senator from New Hampshire, could sign on with the Obama administration as Commerce Department secretary. Turns out, he couldn’t. Gregg withdrew his name from consideration citing a “different set of views” on a variety of policy issues, which he said would keep him from being a team player for Team Obama.
There were a couple of tender spots. Gregg mentioned the $789 billion economic stimulus package, whose non-stimulus spending must have caused him major heartburn. Reports also suggest some friction over White House plans to oversee the 2010 Census instead of Commerce, to which the U.S. Census Bureau is assigned.
Gregg, who was identified as President Barack Obama’s choice for Commerce just last week, said it had become clear “this process will not work for me,” that there were “irresolvable conflicts.” Instead of joining the Cabinet, Gregg will stay in the Senate.
That has political ramifications. While Gregg said he’s unlikely to run for re-election in 2010, his holding the seat instead leaving it in the hands of a placeholder will help Republicans maintain control. And you never know: Gregg might change his mind.
Of course, Gregg’s bow-out means Obama still needs a Commerce secretary. His first choice, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, withdrew because of an on-going pay-to-play investigation in his state.