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White House: Sen. Judd Gregg to be Commerce nominee

The New Hampshire Republican cites an apparent deal to keep his seat in his party. Obama will announce the nomination Tuesday.

February 03, 2009|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Obama plans to nominate Sen. Judd Gregg as Commerce secretary today, the White House confirmed on the eve of the announcement as the New Hampshire Republican disclosed an apparent deal that would keep his seat out of Democrats' hands.

"I have made it clear to the Senate leadership on both sides of the aisle and to the governor that I would not leave the Senate if I felt my departure would cause a change in the makeup of the Senate," Gregg said Monday in a statement. The White House confirmed the Gregg choice on the condition of anonymity because the announcement had not yet been made.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch confirmed the "understanding," stopping just short of promising to appoint a Republican or an independent to serve out the remaining two years of Gregg's term.

The deal would give Obama his top choice for a team responsible for ending the recession. Republicans get to keep Gregg's seat for two more years, retaining the 41 seats they need to filibuster.

Sixty votes are required to cut off debate. Democrats hold 56 seats, caucus with two independents, and are likely to gain another seat in Minnesota if election recount results there hold up. And they stand a better chance of flipping Gregg's seat into Democratic ranks in 2010 by running against his rookie replacement or for an empty seat than against Gregg himself.

If confirmed, Gregg would be the third Republican in the Cabinet, along with Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Republican expected to be named to Gregg's seat is Bonnie Newman, who served as Gregg's chief of staff during his time in the U.S. House of Representatives. Newman is a veteran of the Reagan White House. Under the deal, she would not run in 2010.

Lynch's agreement shores up his bipartisan credentials as the state is confronting a decades-old budget crisis.

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