GOP leader: Democratic governor may appoint new Republican senator
David Edwards and Muriel Kane
Published: Sunday February 1, 2009

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Reports that President Barack Obama may nominate Republican Senator Judd Gregg as secretary of commerce have fueled speculation that New Hampshire's Democratic governor might appoint a Democrat to fill Gregg's seat.

Senate Minority Whip Sen. John Kyl (R-AZ), however, in an appearance on Fox News Sunday, did not seem overly concerned about this prospect. "I think that's been thought through," he told host Chris Wallace. "I suspect that Senator Gregg has thought that through very carefully and would not leave his Republican colleagues in the lurch."

A handful of states require that a senator who is appointed in case of a vacancy be of the same party as his or her predecessor, but New Hampshire is not one of them. If Al Franken prevails in the Minnesota recount battle, a Democratic appointee would give the Democrats a filibuster-proof sixty-vote majority in the Senate.

Because of this, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune's Swamp, "there are reports circulating in the Senate that Republicans are trying to work out a deal with [New Hampshire Governor] Lynch to keep the seat in their party's hands in advance of Gregg's agreement to vacate it."

"I'm not suggesting a deal at all," Kyl insisted to Wallace. "I'm just suggesting that Senator Gregg clearly has thought this through and, if it does turn out that he's the Commerce Secretary, that events may unfold in a way that don't cause us the problem that you suggested."

"We'll have to read between the lines, then," Wallace replied, laughing.

Fox commentator Britt Hume later told Wallace that he had raised the same question with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who "did say that it would be his understanding that if Gregg were named, that a Republican would be named from New Hampshire to fill out his unexpired term."

Hume, however, described McConnell as "very worried about this."

"He's very worried, first of all, that they lose Gregg, who is a very important figure in the Senate," Hume explained. "Very smart guy, very able -- this is a very shrewd move by the Obama team to reach out to him."

NPR's Mara Liasson expanded further on Hume's remarks. "The White House knows exactly what they're doing," Liasson emphasized. "They know they are, in effect, decapitating the Senate Republican leadership team, because Gregg is -- he is really smart on the budget, on all fiscal issues, he's a real leader."

Liasson also pointed out that a Republican appointee is likely to be less able than Gregg would have been to hold the seat at the next election. "They absolutely set that seat up to become Democratic, if not right away, maybe in 2010," she stated. "This is one smart hardball political move."

This video is from Fox News Sunday, broadcast Feb. 1, 2009.

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