Can The Gregg Appointment Get Worse?
Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH), the president’s pick for Commerce Secretary, just revealed during an interview with CNBC that he would recuse himself from congressional votes while his nomination is being considered by his former Senate colleagues.
As Brian Beutler notes, this means that Gregg, who is about to be in the position of spending recovery money, can't help overcome filibusters for it, leaving Democrats still needing two Republican votes, as it stands now, to pass anything. So Obama picked a Republican for a cabinet-level position and got less than nothing in return. Not even a vote on the most important legislation of the year.
That said, the Democrats have moves here. They could vote to confirm Gregg for Commerce tomorrow, taking him out of the Senate. And if Bonnie Newman, the handpicked successor, is sent up to be seated, refuse to seat her until Al Franken is seated as well. Either way, with 98 Senators or 100, the Dems would need only one crossover vote to pass. Some of this is moot because useful idiots like Ben Nelson and Mary Landrieu and Kent Conrad love to stab their party in the back. But there are options, if they want to play hardball. However, neither the Democratic Senate or the President seems to want to do so, and while today's developments have been mildly encouraging, the meat of Krugman's post is correct.
When it came to stimulus legislation, when Obama finally introduced his economic plan he immediately began negotiating with himself, preemptively offering concessions to the GOP, which voted against the plan anyway. (And Obama appears, in the name of bipartisanship, to have thrown away a Senate vote he may well need.)
As a wise man recently said, failure to act effectively risks turning this slump into a catastrophe. Yet there’s a sense, watching the process so far, of low energy. What’s going on?