Obama picks New Hampshire senator as Commerce chief

In a move Sen. Judd Gregg described as "extraordinary," President Obama named the New Hampshire Republican as his nominee for secretary of Commerce, rounding out his economic team and filling one of the last vacancies in the Cabinet.

"He's seen from all angles what makes our economy work for communities, businesses and families -- and what keeps it from working better," Obama said in his remarks Tuesday morning. Obama went on to praise his nominee for his fiscal conservatism and for "reaching across the aisle to get things done." Gregg will be the third Republican addition to the Cabinet, following Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Gregg served four terms in the House and two as New Hampshire's governor before running for Senate in 1992. He currently sits on the Commerce Subcommittee of the Appropriations Committee, a point Obama made during his introductory remarks.

Gregg spoke sharply about Obama during the campaign but Tuesday called the president's economic plan "bold and aggressive, comprehensive and effective." As the Commerce Department's "steward," Obama said, Gregg will "defy the winds of this crisis" by guiding his team to rebuild infrastructure, create jobs, promote industry and retain U.S. leadership in science and technology developments.

The nomination of the 61-year-old senior senator comes almost a month after the original nominee, Gov. Bill Richardson (D) of New Mexico, bowed out, citing a pending investigation into his administration's possible involvement with lucrative contracts to a political donor.

The news of Gregg's potential nomination had Democrats exulting over a chance to add another Senate seat to their caucus, giving them a supermajority there if they are officially awarded the disputed Minnesota contest. But Gregg proved unwilling to give up the seat if it would tip the Senate's balance further in the Democrats' favor. "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," he said earlier this week.

In his acceptance comments Tuesday, Gregg thanked New Hampshire's Gov. John Lynch (D) for "courtesy and courage in being willing to make this possible" by agreeing to appoint a Republican as Gregg's Senate successor.

Sure of the Senate balance remaining stable, Gregg turned to bipartisanship appeals in his final remarks. "This is not a time when we should stand in our ideological corners and shout at each other. This is a time to govern and govern well," he said, accepting the nomination. "It was my obligation to say yes."

The president and his new Cabinet pick took no questions from the assembled press.

Check out the blog Lost in Transition, a joint effort of Government Executive and National Journal.

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