GOP Senator Gregg withdraws as commerce secretary nominee
David Edwards and Stephen C. Webster
Published: Thursday February 12, 2009

Print This  Email This

Report: Gregg notified White House of plans several days ago

Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) is no longer President Obama's nominee for commerce secretary.

"We regret that he has had a change of heart," said White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, responding to Sen. Gregg's announcement. The president played off Gregg's relinquished nomination at a Thursday night banquet, joking that perhaps a young Abe Lincoln had hoped someone would appoint him to commerce secretary.

"The fault lies with me," Gregg told Politico. "He refused to discuss any conversations he had with Obama, saying, 'I may have embarrassed myself but hopefully not him.'"

According to a late-breaking MSNBC report, Sen. Gregg notified the White House and outlined his plans several days ago.

Citing "irresolvable conflicts" on the census and President Obama's economic stimulus package, Judd took himself out of consideration mid-afternoon, after Republican criticism of the White House's indication that it may assume greater responsibility for the Census Bureau, currently under control of Commerce.

"If President Obama doesn't trust Sen. Gregg to oversee a fair and accurate census, he should withdraw the nomination," said GOP conference chairman Mike Pence (R-IN) Thursday afternoon. Sen. Gregg did just that.

"The outcome of the census has deep political implications, since congressional districts are drawn based on population. Many federal funds are distributed on the basis of population, as well," reported the Associated Press.

Sen. Gregg's office published the following letter soon thereafter:

“I want to thank the President for nominating me to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. This was a great honor, and I had felt that I could bring some views and ideas that would assist him in governing during this difficult time. I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle.

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

“Obviously the President requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives.

“I greatly admire President Obama and know our country will benefit from his leadership, but at this time I must withdraw my name from consideration for this position.

“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. This will certainly be a goal of mine.

“Kathy and I also want to specifically thank Governor Lynch and Bonnie Newman for their friendship and assistance during this period. In addition we wish to thank all the people, especially in New Hampshire, who have been so kind and generous in their supportive comments.

“As a further matter of clarification, nothing about the vetting process played any role in this decision. I will continue to represent the people of New Hampshire in the United States Senate.”

"Senator Gregg reached out to the president and offered his name for Secretary of Commerce," responded the White House on Thursday afternoon. "He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies he would support, embrace and move forward the president's agenda. Once it became clear after his nomination that Sen. Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama's key economic priorities, it became necessary for Sennator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways. We regret that he has had a change of heart."

"Sen. Gregg made a principled decision to return and we're glad to have him," Senate Minority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY.) said in a report by The Hill, "calling the New Hampshire senator 'a key adviser to me and to the Republican Conference.'"

"Gregg said at the time that he had been told he was neither a subject nor target of the investigation, and would cooperate fully," AP noted.

Though the census and stimulus were both issues of divergence between Sen. Gregg and President Obama, during a Thursday evening press conference, Gregg specifically highlighted philosophical differences between he and the administration, claiming he could not be part of "a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives."

Sen. Gregg also said he does not intend to seek reelection.

This video is from, broadcast Feb. 12, 2009.

Download video via