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Obama to nominate Gregg for Commerce

President Barack Obama will nominate Republican Sen. Judd Gregg as commerce secretary, a White House official confirmed Monday.
Gregg Commerce
Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., may become the third Republican member of Barack Obama's cabinet without being blamed for delivering Democrats complete control of the Senate,Lauren Victoria Burke / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

President Barack Obama will nominate Republican Sen. Judd Gregg as commerce secretary, a White House official confirmed Monday.

The announcement was set for Tuesday morning, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

Gregg is a New Hampshire senator who would be the third Republican to join Obama's Cabinet, if confirmed. The others are Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Transportation Secretary Ray Lahood.

Earlier Monday, Gregg revealed an apparent deal by which his Senate seat would stay out of Democratic hands if he were nominated.

"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 in a statement.

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 White House tried to stay out of the back and forth. But officials there did nothing to squelch the expectation that Gregg would be nominated to the post.

"Obviously, the president has great respect for Senator Gregg," White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said Monday. "I'm not going to get into personnel announcements before we are there."

Getting to a deal took days of negotiating after it became known last week that Obama was considering appointing the former Budget Committee chairman from New Hampshire to his Cabinet. A flurry of telephone calls among the White House, the Senate and New Hampshire yielded these terms: Obama wanted Gregg for Commerce. Gregg would accept only if Lynch agreed to appoint a Republican or an independent.

With little choice, Lynch and Senate Democrats signaled their "understanding."

Each side gains something: Obama gets his top choice for a team tasked with steering the nation out of recession. Republicans keep Gregg's seat for two more years, retaining the crucial 41 Senate seats they need to filibuster majority Democrats.

And Democrats, who control 56 seats and caucus with two independents, stand a better chance of flipping Gregg's seat into their ranks by running against his rookie replacement — or better yet in their view, an empty seat — than Gregg himself.