Gregg Appointment Based On Backroom Deal?Barack Obama is set to pick New Hampshire Republican Senator Judd Gregg as Secretary of Commerce today. If the President does so, there has been more than a small amount of concern that Gregg's appointment to commerce would mean that the Democrats may get a filibister-proof majority in the Senate. The Governor of New Hampshire is a Democrat, and had been seen as likelyto appoint a Democrat. If Minnesota's unresolved Senate race were to fall in favor of Al Franken, this would give the Democrats 60 votes.
Reports as late as yesterday said that Senate Republican leadership was trying to encourage Gregg to stay with them. The cloture fears apparently may have lead to some backroom negotiating:
Some Republican leaders had urged Sen. Gregg not to take the job because of concerns that his departure could tip the balance of power in the Senate in favor of Democrats. Democrats and Democrat-friendly independents currently control 58 seats in the Senate, two short of the filibuster-proof majority they need to prevent Republicans from blocking measures.
Republicans on Sunday suggested that their concerns over Sen. Gregg's seat had been worked out. "Sen. Gregg has told me that if he were to take this appointment, it would not alter the makeup of the Senate in terms of the majority and the minority," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said on CBS News's "Face the Nation." He didn't elaborate.
It is actually in Obama's best interest politically to avoid a Democratic majority in the Senate that is filibuster-proof (60 or more Democats) because if the Democrats reach that number, even by appointment, from that point forward the President will not be able to blame Republicans for anything that goes wrong, nor will he be able to hang the albatross of his flawed economic plan around Republican necks. The reason is because once the Democrats reach a super-majority in the Senate, there simply won't be enough Republicans left in Washington to stop anything that Barack Obama wants to pass. Whatever happens-success or failure-will be entirely the President's own political fault under those circumstances, and the Republicans will remember that reality in the General Election of 2010.
The interesting question is this: If a backroom deal is being struck to avoid a Senate supermajority, what is the hidden substance of such an agreement?