- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 12, 2009

BREAKING NEWS:

Sen. Judd Gregg is withdrawing his nomination to be secretary of commerce, the fourth of President Obama’s nominees to pull their names from consideration and a major blow for Mr. Obama’s efforts to have a bipartisan administration.

Mr. Gregg, New Hampshire Republican, issued a statement Thursday citing “irresolvable conflicts” that were not adequately addressed in his negotiations with Mr. Obama before Mr. Gregg’s nomination.

The longtime senator accepted the nomination last week, promising bipartisanship.

But he said Thursday, “Obviously the president requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives.”

“It has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me,” Mr. Gregg said.

“Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns,” Mr. Gregg said in the statement. “We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.”

“As we move forward, I expect there will be many issues and initiatives where I can and will work to assure the success of the President’s proposals,” Mr. Gregg said. “This will certainly be a goal of mine.”

White House aides, who seemed surprised to learn of the withdrawal announcement, issued an official statement 50 minutes after the Gregg statement.

Press secretary Robert Gibbs said the administration regrets Mr. Gregg’s change of heart.

“Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce,” Mr. Gibbs said in the statement.

“He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the president’s agenda,” Mr. Gibbs said. “Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama’s key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways. We regret that he has had a change of heart.”

Mr. Gregg’s statement included a note of thanks to the president, who was traveling in Peoria, Ill., to sell the $787 billion economic stimulus plan.

Mr. Gregg is the second nominee to withdraw from the Commerce post: New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson pulled his name from consideration in January because of an ongoing ethics investigation in his home state. Last week, former Sen. Tom Daschle withdrew his nomination for secretary of health and human services after bad publicity over his failure to pay taxes on a private car and driver service. Also pulling out last week was Nancy Killefer, who would have been Mr. Obama’s chief performance officer as deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget.

Senate Republican leaders were elated at the news that Mr. Gregg was staying in the Senate.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the New Hampshire lawmaker had “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,” Mr. McConnell said.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, Tennessee Republican and chairman of the Senate Republican Conference, said Mr. Gregg “would have been a strong Cabinet member, but it is good for the country and the Senate that he will continue to be a Republican senator.”

With 41 seats, Senate Republicans have barely enough votes to sustain a filibuster and slow down legislation. Mr. Gregg’s return to the Senate is seen as giving the Republicans a much better chance of holding on to the seat in 2010.

Congressional bureau chief David R. Sands contributed to this article.

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