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Republican Gregg pulls name from Obama's Commerce job

New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg has withdrawn his name from Commerce secretary nomination in a Barack Obama cabinet

Well, back to the drawing board on a Commerce secretary for President Obama. (He's speaking in Peoria at this moment and may not even know it's official yet; his press folks certainly didn't.)

But New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg has just withdrawn his name from the already-announced nomination to be the new secretary of Commerce. He cites irresolvible differences with his potential boss over the economic stimulus package and with the Census, which has now been moved over to White House control.

Bye-bye bi-bipartisanship.

Here's how Gregg himself put it moments ago:

"It has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me, as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns."

A philosophical gap over fundamental issues. In GOP circles recently, grumbling grew louder over the move of Census from Gregg's would-be department to the White House to satisfy Latino and other Democratic concerns, as The Ticket reported here Monday. But as one Republican operative put it Wednesday, "How would it go over if President Bush had put the Census under Karl Rove?"

Gregg's withdrawal (see our news video by scrolling down or click on the "Read more" line below) also walks on Obama's economic stimulus message of the day, from his visit to Illinois to talk down the economy at Caterpillar, while praising his GOP secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood, and then by celebrating No. 1 Republican Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday in Springfield later.

Gregg's departure before officially arriving also gives political cover to all the other Hill Republicans who've been opposing Obama on actual ideological grounds, not partisan. The immediate response from stunned Obama backers was to minimize the Commerce Department, only a week after stressing that Gregg's nomination made the most bipartisan Cabinet ever.

In a hasty White House statement, officials said Gregg reached out to them for the Commerce job and indicated he could go along, and they now regret he can't.

So three-plus weeks into his new administration, Obama's working on Commerce Secretary No. 3. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pulled out of the nomination over anticipated troubles from a federal investigation of pay-to-play in his state's government.

And ex-Sen. Tom Daschle had to withdraw from the Cabinet's Health and Human Services post over years of unpaid taxes, a step that hampered Obama's attempt that same day to recapture the initiative in the economic debate. Obama went on all major broadcast TV networks, saying he'd "screwed up."

More details coming. Check back here.

--Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: New Hampshire GOP Sen. Judd Gregg, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in the background.

Credit: Alex Wong / Getty Images

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Comments () | Archives (4)

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I've got an idea. This position seems to be cursed. Obama has promised budget cuts, why not get rid of the whole department of Commerce?? Their biggest job which is the census is being sent to the White House (why I wonder?? Has any "reporter" asked?). Any other job they do can be divided between the department of Interior, the Department of Labor and the White House of course, since they seem to need extra work...

Its good to see someone with principles stand up for what is right. Now if only our President and lame congress would catch on.

Why would anyone in office turn down a cabinet job because you don't agree with the President? That's crap. The Cabinet needs to be bi-partisan. We needed him, and who would give up such a great opportunity?! I'm saying there must be something in his past he wants to hide. Shame on him.

Perhaps he understands the truth about the real stimulus package! How much of this money will truly impact your life and this nation for the next coming years? This is a delayed reaction to a crash, which will take us deeper into debit rather then boost the economy! Look at the stimulus package, how much truly goes towards the people, besides all the debit will be added on to your children and grandkids! What kind of change is that? Why do we allow our Government to be so wasteful! My heads of to this man! He has moral values, cares and is honest! God bless him!


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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