February 3, 2009 / 1:32 AM / 10 years ago

Obama nominates Republican Gregg for Commerce job

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama named a third prominent Republican to his cabinet on Tuesday, nominating Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire as commerce secretary.

President Barack Obama listens to his nominee for Commerce Secretary Sen. Judd Gregg during the announcement in the Grand Foyer of the White House, February 3, 2009. REUTERS/Jim Young

A respected lawmaker and accomplished negotiator, Gregg, 61, is the ranking Republican on the Senate Budget Committee. He could play a key role in selling Obama's nearly $900 billion stimulus package to skeptical members of his party.

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

"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.

Obama did not respond to a shouted question from a reporter about the decision by Nancy Killefer, his nominee to oversee budget and spending reform, to withdraw her nomination for tax reasons.

In January, Obama's first pick for commerce secretary, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, withdrew in the face of a legal inquiry.

Richardson denied any wrongdoing in connection with the inquiry of a California-based financial company that had done business with the New Mexico state government.

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.

New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch said on Tuesday he will appoint Republican Bonnie Newman to fill Gregg's Senate should the senator be confirmed as commerce secretary.

Gregg will join two other prominent Republicans in Obama's cabinet -- Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood and Defense Secretary Robert Gates. While Gates is not formally registered with the party, he has said he considers himself 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 U.S. business at home and around the world.

Writing by Ross Colvin; Reporting by Jeff Mason and David Alexander; Editing by Eric Walsh and Cynthia Osterman

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