Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gregg skips vote on economic recovery plan

(I hate to make three posts in one day, but this is a big news day. I'll take tomorrow off to make up for it.)

The Senate passed its version of the stimulus plan earlier today, 61-37. Three Republicans – Susan Collins, Olympia Snowe, and Arlen Specter - joined all 58 Democrats, including the moderate-to-conservative ones like Landrieu and the Nelsons, in supporting the bill. What I'd like to know is, why didn't Judd Gregg vote?

New Hampshire's senior senator and the President's choice for Commerce Secretary was the only sitting senator to miss the vote. (Minnesota still has one vacancy.) According to last Friday's Boston Globe,

Senator Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican nominated to be commerce secretary, once was seen as a key ally in President Obama's effort to win bipartisan support for his economic stimulus bill. But Gregg's spokeswoman said yesterday that the senator would recuse himself from voting on the bill, and would not even participate in debate on it...

Gregg's spokeswoman, Laena Fallon, would not speak about the senator's decision other than to say, "He thinks this is the most appropriate thing to do right now." A White House spokesman declined comment, deferring to Gregg's office.

I wish Fallon had explained WHY the senator feels this is "the most appropriate thing to do," because I sure can’t see it. One assumes, given his remarks at the Commerce announcement, that he supports the plan, and if he doesn't, you have to wonder why the President would invite him onto the national economic team. Dissensions in the inner chamber are great, but on the most basic outline of something this big and this central? That's like putting a foe of universal health care in at HHS. Furthermore, Governor Lynch’s pick to replace Gregg, J. Bonnie Newman, is said to be just as moderate as Snowe and Collins, so it's not hard to envision her voting for the bill.

Four Republicans would have been a much better headline than three. I wish the President had told Gregg that if he wanted the Commerce job, he would either have to vote for the economic recovery plan or immediately resign from the Senate to clear the way for Newman. As a New Hampshire resident and voter, I feel deprived of a voice on the most important bill of the year. You also have to question Obama's decision not to push harder for that fourth Republican vote, especially when it would have been so easily obtainable. Maybe on the final conference bill?

Update: NH State Rep. Marjorie Smith has an Op-Ed in the Concord Monitor saying the same thing.

(Photo Credit: The New York Times.)


James said...

This is really interesting, Nathan. I'd like to know why he abstained, too.

Max B. said...

he claimed there was a conflict of interest...that funds in the bill are going to commerce, so he shouldn't vote on it. it seems to me like he's just protecting a tenuous political position, but there you have it.