Obama May Name Gregg to the Cabinet Today
have stories on a potential appointment of Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH)
as Secretary of Commerce. This would be a hugely controversial appointment
because with Al Franken likely to win his court case in Minnesota,
Gregg's resignation from the Senate would mean that the Democratic
governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch, would get to fill the 60th seat.
Political Wire is
that the new senator will be J. Bonnie Newman, a Republican and former
chief of staff to Gregg. She has had many jobs in government and academia
and is currently executive dean of the John F. Kennedy School of Government
at Harvard University. It is possible that Lynch extracted a promise
from her not to run in 2010.
Other Republicans who have been
as possible replacements are former New Hampshire governor
Walter Peterson (86) and former senator Warren Rudman (78).
They are thought to be too old to engage in a bitter and probably losing
election battle in 2010.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell appeared on Face the Nation
that he wasn't worried because Gregg would never take the position if it
would change the partisan balance of the Senate. There are rumors that
Obama offered Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-ME) a cabinet slot and she declined
for this reason.
So what is really going on here? It is hard to tell since the people
who know aren't talking. Gregg is not some kind of commercial genius
whose presence at Commerce will suddenly cause the economy to stand up
and salute. So there are only two conceivable reasons Obama is even
considering Gregg. The first (and minor) one is to show the nation how
bipartisan he is. It is worth a little bit, but ultimately Obama
will be judged by how well he does his job, not how many Republicans
he put in his cabinet. If the economy is in deep recession in Nov. 2010,
he won't get much mileage from saying: "Yes, the economy still sucks but
that is because I appointed so many Republicans to the cabinet."
The only reason for a Gregg appointment that makes any sense is Obama's
angling for the New Hampshire Senate seat. For him, the best case scenario
is that Gov. Lynch simply appoints a Democrat, period. However, it is
possible that Gregg told Obama and Lynch that he would not accept the
appointment unless Lynch promises on a stack of Bibles to appoint a
Republican. Hence the flurry of interest in Republicans who either
promise not to run in 2010 or who are too weak to do so and win. In
this case, Obama (and master strategists Rahm Emanuel and David Axelrod)
may have decided that no Democrat could beat Gregg in 2010 but that
either of New Hampshire's representatives, Carol Shea-Porter or Paul
Hodes, could win an open seat, even after bloodying each other in a primary. If this is true, then Obama's plan
is to put a third Republican in his Cabinet (after
Robert Gates at Defense and Ray LaHood at Transportation) in order to
greatly increase his chances of picking up the New Hampshire Senate
seat in 2010. But only a handful of insiders really know and they are
not talking. It is also possible that the deal fell through and Obama
will name someone else to the Commerce post.
Feingold To Introduce Constitutional Amendment to Fill Senate Vacancies by Election
First we had controversy over a gubernatorial appointment to the
Senate in Illinois, then in New York, now in New Hampshire.
Sen. Russ Feingold (D-WI) thinks this way of filling Senate vacancies is
archaic and wants a constitutional amendment that would strip governors
of the appointment power and have all Senate vacancies filled by special
elections, the same way House vacancies are filled.
reads in part:
"When vacancies happen in the representation of any State in the Senate, the executive authority of such State shall issue writs of election to fill such vacancies."
The second sentence contains a grandfather clause allowing currently
appointed senators to keep their jobs. To pass, the amendment must get
a 2/3 vote in each chamber of Congress and then be ratified by 3/4 of
the states within seven years. That is a steep hill to climb, but because
it does not appear to favor one party over the other, it at least has a
chance (unlike, say, statehood for D.C., which clearly favors the
Democrats). Republican state legislators probably have noticed that
the governors of Illinois, New York, and New Hampshire are all Democrats,
and stripping them of appointment power is not something they view with
horror. On the other hand, they are also aware that Sen. Kay Bailey
Hutchison (R-TX) is likely to resign from the Senate soon to run for
governor and they definitely like the idea of Gov. Rick Perry (R-TX)
filling her seat. Still, all in all, the amendment is politically
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