Sen. Judd Gregg, it turns out, didn't like the Obama administration's policy on the Census and did not believe that the White House was serious about its bipartisan outreach. More on this story as it develops. Here's a statement from his office:
Sen. Gregg stated, "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."
Gregg's decision renders moot my post below.
Republicans are atwitter at anonymous news reports suggesting that the White House doesn't trust Republican Commerce Secretary designate Judd Gregg to handle the delicate political sensitivies associated with the 2010 Census. Minority groups have long contended that they're undercounted and have advocated the use of statistical modeling to improve the count. Republicans have Gregg have long believed that Democrats want to inflate their numbers for political gain. When black and Hispanic groups protested Gregg's nomination, the White House assured them, perhaps overeagerly, that Census policy is carefully overseen by the White House. Republicans, willfully or genuinelly, took this to mean that Rahm Emanuel or Michael Strautmanis or someone at the White House would micromanage the Census and bypass the chain of command. When appointed, the director of the Census will report to Gregg, who reports to the President (through staff), just like the director of the Census in the Bush administration reported to Elaine Chao, who reported to President Bush. The White House sets policy for the Census, which has become somewhat of a political procedure -- perhaps, in some ways, the most important political work that a cabinet agency gets to perform. (Some Democrats and Republicans want an independent census agency, an idea which makes sense to me.) Republicans can -- and ought to -- protest if White House policy changes appear to confer an advantage for one party. But this isn't what the noise is about. Gregg serves at the pleasure of the president; he can either accept the final White House policy guidance or resign; that said, he will participate in the discussions as a principal; he would not have accepted the job if his authority and advice on these would be ignored. This is the normal course of operations in Washington. The controversy in this case is sui generis.
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