Gregg gives up

It’s proving easier for President Barack Obama to win congressional passage of the most expensive pieces of legislation in the history of this country — the economic stimulus bill — than it is for him to fill his Cabinet.

The most recent Cabinet vacancy came when New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg withdrew his name from nomination for the post of commerce secretary late last week. And that costly stimulus bill was a large part of the reason.

Gregg, a fiscally conservative Republican, originally thought he could put aside his philosophical differences to serve the new president. But on Thursday he acknowledged that he could not support some of Obama’s “key economic priorities.” He added, “That was my mistake.” Gregg, by his own admission, was probably never a good fit in Obama’s Cabinet.

Obama had earlier nominated New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson for the Commerce Department post, but he withdrew in January as questions surfaced about state bidding practices in New Mexico. Former Sen. Tom Daschle withdrew as a nominee for secretary of health and human services after it became public that he had only paid taxes on more than $100,000 of income after his name was submitted for the Cabinet job.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner also had problems with unpaid taxes, but he didn’t withdraw and was eventually confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

Gregg opted not to go through the confirmation, and that’s too bad. The Obama administration could use a Cabinet voice pushing for spending restraint, now that several of its proposals have ballooned into record-setting price tags.


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