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Gregg withdraws as commerce secretary nominee

Gregg withdraws as commerce secretary nominee

Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire abruptly withdrew his nomination as commerce secretary Thursday, citing "irresolvable conflicts" with President Barack Obama's handling of the economic stimulus and 2010 census.
The unexpected decision was the latest setback for Obama in his attempt to build a Cabinet, and marked the fourth top Obama nominee to withdraw. Gregg would have been the third Republican in Obama's Cabinet; it is unusual for a president to cross party lines to fill his government.
Gregg, 61, is a former New Hampshire governor who previously served in the House of Representatives. He has been in the Senate since 1993 and currently serves as the top Republican on the Senate Budget Committee, where he is known as a crusader against big spending.
"We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy," Gregg said in a statement released by his Senate office.
He was Obama's second choice to fill the Commerce portfolio. New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew several weeks ago in the wake of a grand jury investigation into alleged wrongdoing involving state contracts. He has not been implicated personally.
Two other top nominees withdrew under a tax cloud earlier this month. Former Sen. Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination to be Health and Human Services Secretary and Nancy Killefer withdrew her nomination to be the government's first chief performance officer, a non-Cabinet position.
In his statement Thursday, Gregg thanked Obama for the nomination, and said, "I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle."
In citing the stimulus and census, he said, "Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy."
In his statement, Gregg said his withdrawal had nothing to do with the vetting into his past that Cabinet officials routinely undergo.
Gregg's reference to the stimulus underscored the partisan divide over the centerpiece of Obama's economic recovery plan. Conservatives in both houses have been relentless critics of the plan, arguing it is filled with wasteful spending and won't create enough jobs. Gregg has refrained from voting on the bill _ and on all other matters _ while his nomination was pending.
The Commerce Department has jurisdiction over the Census Bureau, and the administration recently took steps to assert greater control. Republicans have harshly criticized the decision, saying it was an attempt to politicize the once-in-a-decade count of the U.S. population.
The outcome of the census has deep political implications, since congressional districts are drawn based on population. Many federal funds are distributed on the basis of population, as well.
Both of those factors mean there is a premium on counting as many residents as possible. Historically, the groups believed to be most undercounted are inner-city minorities, who tend to vote Democratic.
The Congressional Black Caucus and a group representing Latino elected officials had raised questions about Gregg, noting that as chairman of the Senate panel overseeing the Census Bureau budget he frequently sought to cut funds that they believe led to an undercount of minorities.
To allay concerns over Gregg, the White House initially indicated that it might take greater control over the Census Bureau. But amid Republican criticism it has since clarified that the White House will "work closely with the census director," and that the Census Bureau would not be removed from the Commerce Department.
Gregg's announcement also undid a carefully constructed chain of events.
The New Hampshire senator had agreed to join the Cabinet only if his departure from the Senate did not allow Democrats to take control of his seat.
New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, in turn, pledged to appointed Bonnie Newman, a Republican former interim president of the University of New Hampshire.
She, in turn, had agreed not to run for a full term in 2010, creating an open seat for Democrats to try and claim.
In a statement, Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said Gregg "made a principled decision to return and we're glad to have him. He is among the smartest, most effective legislators to serve in the Senate _ Democrat or Republican _ and a key adviser to me and to the Republican Conference. It's great to have him back."
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Associated Press Writer Holly Ramer in Concord, New Hampshire, contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-10-28 04:19 GMT+08:00