WASHINGTON–Old: No drama Obama.
New: Drama Obama.
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) withdrew his name Thursday as President Obama’s Commerce Secretary, the second nominee for the spot to drop out. Gregg was at odds with the White House over the $789 billion stimulus package and control of the 2010 Census.
“It was my mistake, obviously, to say yes, because it wasn’t my personality,” Gregg said at a press conference in the Capitol. He would have been the third Republican in the Obama cabinet.
Earlier, Gregg said in a statement “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.”
There was some back and forth Thursday over whether Gregg campaigned for the job, pledging to be a team player–or was recruited. Gregg was nominated after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson withdrew because of a pay-to-play probe in his state. Former Sen. Tom Daschle pulled out as health czar because of income tax issues. Another top appointee quit because of tax issues and Treasury Sec. Tim Geithner was confirmed despite his own tax problems.
The Obama White House, three weeks old, is having trouble duplicating the well oiled Obama campaign.
White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs zinged Gregg in a statement.
“Senator Gregg reached out to the President and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce. 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.
“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”.
Asked to react to Gibbs statement, Gregg said, “I did not campaign for this job…..I don’t think they sought me out, and I didn’t seek them out. I think an intermediary suggested me and they thought it was a good suggestion.”
Gregg describes himself as a strong fiscal conservative. He skipped the Senate vote on Obama’s recession busting $789 billion spending and tax cut package and would not say Thursday if he would support the final version of Obama’s signature initiative.
The Census Bureau is a part of the Commerce Department and Hispanic and African American lawmakers were concerned about the selection of Gregg, considered hostile to Census funding and related matters.
In reaction, the White House signaled it would take on some kind of oversight role with the Bureau. That morphed into chatter about Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel running the Census. After a few days of this festering, the White House sent out a statement that the census would not be run out of the West Wing.