5WASHINGTON — New Hampshire Governor John Lynch appears to have cleared the way, at least politically, for Democratic President Barack Obama to name Republican Senator Judd Gregg as U.S. commerce secretary.
 
Lynch, a Democrat, indicated in a brief statement on Monday that he would yield to Gregg’s demands and appoint a Republican to replace him in the Senate if Obama, as anticipated, picks the 61-year-old New Hampshire senator as head of the U.S. Commerce Department.
 
A Senate Democratic aide wrote in an e-mail to Reuters that if Obama picks Gregg, Lynch will indeed replace him with another Republican in order not to upset the balance of power in the Democratic-led Senate.
 
If Gregg was replaced by a Democrat and Minnesota’s Al Franken survived a court challenge of his apparent victory, Democrats would have 60 seats in the 100-member Senate, enough to ram through Republican procedural roadblocks.
 
Gregg did not want to do that to his fellow Republicans.
 
“I have had conversations with Senator Gregg, the White House and U.S. Senate leadership,” Lynch said in the statement issued by his office.
 
“Senator Gregg has said he would not resign his seat in the U.S. Senate if it changed the balance in the Senate. Based on my discussions, it is clear the White House and Senate leadership understand this as well.”
 
Without specifically saying he would replace Gregg with a Republican, Lynch said: “It is important that President Obama be able to select the advisors he feels are necessary to help him address the challenges facing our nation.
 
“If President Obama does nominate Senator Gregg to serve as Commerce Secretary, I will name a replacement who will put the people of New Hampshire first and represent New Hampshire effectively in the U.S. Senate.”

Photo credit: Senator Gregg’s website (http://gregg.senate.gov/public/)