A conservative voice

The Baltimore Sun

WASHINGTON - During a long political career that includes 16 years in the U.S. Senate, Judd Gregg has been known as a tough negotiator, a deficit hawk and an independent-minded conservative.

Yesterday, Gregg, 61, was nominated by President Barack Obama to be secretary of commerce, buttressing one other part of his reputation: a willingness to work across party lines.

"This is not a time for partisanship. This is not a time when we should stand in our ideological corners and shout at each other," the New Hampshire Republican said after Obama announced his nomination at the White House. "This is a time to govern and govern well. And therefore when the president asked me to join his administration and participate in trying to address the issues of this time, I believed it was my obligation to say yes, and I look forward to it with enthusiasm."

If confirmed by the Senate, Gregg would join Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as Republicans in the Cabinet. Obama has already reached out to three sitting senators to serve in his administration: Vice President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

"Judd is famous or infamous, depending on your perspective, on Capitol Hill, for his strict fiscal discipline," Obama said. "It's not that he enjoys saying no - although if it's directed at your bill, you might feel that way. It's that he shares my deep-seated commitment to guaranteeing that our children inherit a future they can afford."

In accepting the nomination, Gregg did not totally forgo partisan loyalty. He acknowledged that he had arranged with New Hampshire's Democratic Gov. John Lynch to appoint a Republican to fill his seat, preventing Democrats from moving closer to a filibuster-proof Senate majority. Lynch named Bonnie Newman, Gregg's former chief of staff, to succeed Gregg. She has agreed to serve only the final two years of his Senate term.

"I also want to thank the governor of New Hampshire for his courtesy and courage in being willing to make this possible through the agreement that we have, relative to my successor in the Senate," Gregg said.

His nomination came a month after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Obama's original choice for the commerce post, withdrew his name from consideration, citing a grand jury investigation into state contracts awarded to an investment company that contributed to his political action committees.

As commerce secretary, Gregg would run an agency with a broad sweep of responsibilities, from dealing with international trade disputes and administering the 2010 census to gathering a raft of economic data and running the National Weather Service. He also would be a leading conservative voice in Obama's economic team.

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