Washington President Barack Obama appeared Saturday to be leaning toward appointing a third Republican to his Cabinet, a move that would place the fiscally conservative Sen. Judd Gregg at the head of the Commerce Department even though a liberal Democrat was initially tapped for the post.
The appointment of the New Hampshire Republican — his family has close ties to the family of former President George W. Bush — also could bring the Senate closer to the 60-vote majority Democrats need to thwart Republicans seeking to filibuster legislation. However, there was no guarantee that New Hampshire’s independent-minded governor would replace Gregg with a Democrat.
Republicans privately hoped Gregg would negotiate a deal that would allow the GOP to keep the seat. Some suggested party elders Warren Rudman or Walter Peterson while others pointed to Doug Scamman, a former speaker of the New Hampshire House and one of Gov. John Lynch’s Republican allies.
Gregg is the leading candidate to become commerce secretary, an Obama administration official said Saturday. A decision could come as soon as Monday, according to the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the official wasn’t authorized to discuss administration deliberations.
Obama’s Cabinet already has two Republicans: Defense Secretary Robert Gates, who was appointed by President George W. Bush and then asked by Obama to remain; and former Rep. Ray LaHood of Illinois, who did not seek re-election to the House in 2008 and soon after was named transportation secretary.