Obama Eyes GOP Sen. Gregg For Commerce

President Barack Obama has approached Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) about being secretary of Commerce. The move would add another Republican to the Cabinet, but if Gregg left the Senate, it would be up to New Hampshire's Democratic governor to name a replacement.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

It began as an unlikely rumor whispered in the halls of the Capitol, and today it was confirmed. President Obama is considering a New Hampshire U.S. senator to head the Commerce Department, which isn't such a big deal until you consider that the senator is Judd Gregg, and Gregg is a Republican. And if he took the job, not only with his seat be filled by the Democratic governor of New Hampshire, but if the seat where to switch from Republican to Democrat, that could change the game in the Senate. NPR's Andrea Seabrook reports.

ANDREA SEABROOK: Warning. The story you're about to hear is almost entirely speculation. OK, here's Senate Democrats' golden scenario, and do yourself a favor, count the ifs here. If Democrat Al Franken wins a vote-count court battle in Minnesota and if Republican Judd Gregg takes the job of Commerce secretary and if New Hampshire Governor John Lynch appoints a Democrat to fill Gregg's term, then Senate Democrats would finally get what has so far been painfully just out of reach - sixty votes in the Senate, the exact number it takes to override a Republican filibuster. You could almost feel the pipe dreams wafting through the Capitol today, and you could hear Republicans gnashing their teeth at the idea.

Senator ORRIN HATCH (Republican, Utah): I would not begrudge Judd Gregg anything, but I'd hate to lose him. I'll put it that way.

SEABROOK: Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah. Tennessee Republican Lamar Alexander said he went so far as to threaten Gregg.

Senator LAMAR ALEXANDER (Republican, Tennessee): I told him he was going to have to hard time getting confirmed if he left. I would have to go organize a friendly Republican filibuster.

SEABROOK: Some Republicans wondered if getting those 60 votes for Democrats was in fact the goal of Gregg's possible nomination. Check out this wink, wink nudge, nudge from Senator Hatch.

Senator HATCH: And I would never presume that the Obama administration would want to play politics. They have made it very clear that they're above politics.

SEABROOK: But you almost have to admire what a brilliant strategic maneuver it would be to snare Gregg as Commerce secretary. In a swell of bipartisanship, President Obama could add another Republican to his administration and at the same time commit an act of hard core partisanship. But remember, all those ifs. Andrea Seabrook, NPR News the Capitol.

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