by Nathan Empsall, Tue Feb 10, 2009 at 12:53:13 PM EST
The Senate passed its version of the stimulus plan earlier today, 61-37. As expected, three Republicans - Collins, Snowe, and Specter - joined all 58 Democrats 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. 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 for Obama 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. How's that for democracy? Thanks, Judd Gregg. You also have to question the decision not to push harder for that fourth Republican vote, especially when it would come at no cost to the President or the substance of the stimulus.
NH State Rep. Marjorie Smith (D) has a letter to the editor in the Concord Monitor saying the same thing: vote or resign.