If You Can’t Kill a Department, Why Not Head It?

Obama seems to want another Republican in his cabinet to improve the appearance of bipartisanship, but perhaps he should have chosen a Republican who supports the department he was chosen to lead.  CQ Politics reports Obama’s choice for Secretary of Commerce, Judd Gregg, voted to eliminate the Commerce Department before he agreed to head it:

Gregg’s 1995 votes were cast for the fiscal 1996 budget resolution, a nonbinding blueprint that outlined the GOP’s fiscal priorities after Republicans won full control of Congress for the first time in 40 years.

The Senate version of the controversial measure envisioned spending cuts of more than $960 billion, almost half of it from Medicare and Medicaid. Democratic efforts to amend it were uniformly rebuked by a united GOP majority on the Budget Committee.

Ultimately, the Commerce Department survived, and Gregg has since shown more interest than most of his Republican colleagues in funding some of its agencies, particularly the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Gregg also fought President Bill Clinton’s efforts to increase funding for the Commerce Department to administer the 2000 census. Indeed, Gregg’s commitment to basic functions of the department has been questioned at times.

“He was generally pretty harsh on them and not really interested in their programs, especially the commerce side of things,” said a Democratic appropriations aide.

The aide also called Gregg “really smart and hard-working” and said he would work well within Obama’s Cabinet.

It is not unprecedented for a lawmaker who supported abolishing a Cabinet department to take its helm. In 2001, the recently defeated Sen. Spencer Abraham, R‑Mich., was confirmed to run the Energy Department even though he had once cosponsored legislation to eliminate it.

A deal was made to keep Gregg’s Senate seat in Republican hands before Gregg agreed to give up his seat.

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