Obama taps third Republican to head Commerce Department

February 4th, 2009 - 12:04 am ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaWashington, Feb 3 (IANS) President Barack Obama named a third prominent Republican to his cabinet Tuesday, nominating Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire as commerce secretary.If confirmed, Gregg will be the third Republican to join Obama’s 15-member cabinet, following Defence Secretary Robert Gates and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Obama first nominated New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to be commerce secretary. But Richardson withdrew in early January, citing the distraction of a federal investigation into ties to a company that has done business with his state.

“Judd is a master of reaching across the aisle to get things done,” Obama said at a ceremony at the White House to introduce Gregg.

“He will be an outstanding addition to the depth and experience of my economic team, a trusted voice in my cabinet, and an able and persuasive ambassador for industry who makes it known to the world that America is open for business,” he said.

A respected lawmaker and accomplished negotiator, Gregg, 61, is the senior Republican on the Senate Budget Committee and could help the Democratic Obama administration achieve its goal of moving Congress from partisan bickering to consensus building.

Gregg had said he would not take the cabinet job if it pushed Obama’s Democrats closer to the 60-seat mark in the Senate, thereby allowing them to pass laws more easily. The governor of New Hampshire has agreed to fill his seat with a Republican.

Gregg has a reputation as a fiscal conservative respected on both sides of the political aisle. He helped draw up the Wall Street bailout last year and was one of a handful of Republicans who voted to release the second half of the $700 billion package to Obama.

As head of the Commerce Department, Gregg would help promote US business at home and around the world.

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