February 12, 2009: Sen. Judd Gregg Withdraws his Nomination for Commerce Secretary & the Final Push for the Economic Stimulus Bill

THE OBAMA PRESIDENCY:

Judd GreggDoug Mills/The New York Times Senator Judd Gregg with President Obama and Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

IN FOCUS: STATS

In Focus: Stats

  • CNN-Opinion Research Corporation poll out this week shows an American public looking very favorably on the new president, with an approval rating of 76%. That includes a whopping 97% of Democrats and 50% of Republicans. However, only 54% support the Senate bill. – CNN, 2-12-09

THE HEADLINES….

The Headlines…

  • Obama makes 11th hour push for stimulus package: Taking no chances, President Barack Obama is exerting last-minute pressure on Congress to approve his stimulus plan by highlighting stories of people affected by the economic downturn. – CNN, 2-12-09
  • Even After the Deal, Tinkering Goes On: Congressional leaders moved swiftly on Thursday to schedule votes in the House and Senate on the $789 billion economic stimulus plan, while lawmakers spent much of the day hammering out the final details of the legislation. – NYT, 2-12-09
  • Global Economy Top Threat to U.S., Spy Chief Says: The new director of national intelligence told Congress on Thursday that global economic turmoil and the instability it could ignite had outpaced terrorism as the most urgent threat facing the United States. – NYT, 2-12-09
  • Gregg withdraws as commerce secretary nominee: Saying “I made a mistake,” Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire abruptly withdrew as commerce secretary nominee on Thursday and left the fledgling White House suddenly coping with Barack Obama’s third Cabinet withdrawal. – AP, 2-12-09
  • Obama honors Lincoln’s vision of strong union: Summoning the pride of a nation, President Barack Obama paid fond tribute Thursday to Abraham Lincoln by challenging people to embrace his vision of a collective union and reject a “knee-jerk disdain for government.” – AP, 2-12-09
  • George W. Bush to give talk in Calgary: A Calgary audience might be the first group to hear George W. Bush’s take on the state of the world since he stepped down as U.S. president earlier this year. – CTV, 2-12-09
  • Gregg Withdrawal Embarrasses White House: His decision to withdraw as Obama’s nominee for commerce secretary was especially surprising since the courtship between the president and Gregg went on for several weeks. They had even spoken together several times about their ideological differences on economic policy…. – ABC News, 2-12-09
  • Analysis: Obscure post gives Obama big headache: Quick, who headed the Commerce Department under President George W. Bush? No disrespect to Carlos M. Gutierrez, but commerce secretary is not one of Washington’s more glamorous jobs. It’s overshadowed by first-tier Cabinet posts at Justice, State, Defense and Treasury. Scores of senators, House members, Supreme Court justices and White House aides would draw more attention at a Georgetown cocktail party or DuPont Circle restaurant. – AP, 2-12-09
  • US Senate to vote Friday on $789 bln stimulus plan: The U.S. Senate will vote on Friday on the $789 billion economic stimulus package that President Barack Obama wants quickly to boost the struggling economy, said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. – Reuters, 2-12-09
  • Reid Looking for GOP Votes: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is calling other Republican centrists trying to persuade more of them to vote for the measure. He’s looking for additional votes out of an abundance of caution, an aide explained, after learning that ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, who returned to Capitol Hill for votes earlier this week, has now gone back to Florida to continue his recovery from brain cancer and won’t be here for a final vote on the stimulus bill in the coming days. – CNN, 2-12-09
  • Obama eyes home loan subsidies in rescue plan: The Obama administration is hammering out a program to subsidize mortgages in a new front to fight the credit crisis, sources familiar with the plan told Reuters on Thursday, boosting financial markets. – Reuters, 2-12-09
  • Senate Democrats optimistic about 2010, targeting nine states: Nearly two years before Election Day 2010, the Senate Democrat charged with expanding the party’s already-strong majority sounded a bullish tone Thursday, suggesting the national mood and political environment make it nearly impossible for the GOP to pick up seats. – CNN, 2-12-09
  • GOP Targets Stimulus Supporters In New Ad: The National Republican Congressional Committee today began running radio ads targeting 30 House Democrats who supported the stimulus package – or, as the NRCC puts it, “a trillion-dollar spending bill chock full of wasteful Washington spending.” – Listen, Mp3 CBS News, 2-12-09
  • Smacking Specter, When His Vote Matters: At a news briefing, Senator Robert Menendez, the chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Mr. Specter’s seat was one of the Democrats’ targets for the 2010 midterm elections. Mr. Menendez cited the increased enrollment of Democrats in the state and his poll ratings in contending that Mr. Specter would face a very tough re-election tide. – NYT, 2-12-09
  • Jack Cafferty: “How stimulating is $13 a week?”: While the federal government is passing an $800 billion stimulus bill — which works out to about $2,700 for every man woman and child in the country — the average worker can look forward to seeing about an extra $13 a week in his/her paycheck after taxes. This is on top of the $700 billion financial bailout package that was passed last fall and given to Wall Street. – CNN, 2-12-09
  • Food stamps, tax breaks for poor in stimulus bill: More than 37 million Americans live in poverty, and the vast majority of them are in line for extra help under the giant stimulus package coming out of Congress. Millions more could be kept from slipping into poverty by the economic lifeline. People who get food stamps — 30 million and growing — will get more. People drawing unemployment checks — 4.8 million and growing — would get an extra $25, and keep those checks coming longer. People who get Supplemental Security Income — 7 million poor Americans who are elderly, blind or disabled — would get one-time extra payments of $250. – AP, 2-12-09
  • Analysis: Obama faces double dilemmas in Mideast: Israel’s shift to the right could throw a monkey wrench into President Barack Obama’s conciliatory overtures to Iran and his budding drive to promote Arab-Israeli peacemaking. – AP, 2-12-09

POLITICAL QUOTES

Political Quotes

  • “Gregg Withdraws as Commerce Secretary Nominee”: “He was very clear throughout the interviewing process that despite past disagreements about policies, he would support, embrace, and move forward with the President’s agenda. Once it became clear after his nomination that Senator Gregg was not going to be supporting some of President Obama’s key economic priorities, it became necessary for Senator Gregg and the Obama administration to part ways.” – NYT, 2-12-09
  • Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire in statement Thursday withdrawing from consideration to be President Obama’s Commerce Secretary: I want to thank the President for nominating me to serve in his Cabinet as Secretary of Commerce. This was a great honor, and I had felt that I could bring some views and ideas that would assist him in governing during this difficult time. I especially admire his willingness to reach across the aisle.However, it has become apparent during this process that this will not work for me as I have found that on issues such as the stimulus package and the Census there are irresolvable conflicts for me. Prior to accepting this post, we had discussed these and other potential differences, but unfortunately we did not adequately focus on these concerns. We are functioning from a different set of views on many critical items of policy.Obviously the President requires a team that is fully supportive of all his initiatives.I greatly admire President Obama and know our country will benefit from his leadership, but at this time I must withdraw my name from consideration for this position.

    As we move forward, I expect there will be many issues and initiatives where I can and will work to assure the success of the President’s proposals. This will certainly be a goal of mine.

    Kathy and I also want to specifically thank Governor Lynch and Bonnie Newman for their friendship and assistance during this period. In addition we wish to thank all the people, especially in New Hampshire, who have been so kind and generous in their supportive comments.

    As a further matter of clarification, nothing about the vetting process played any role in this decision. I will continue to represent the people of New Hampshire in the United States Senate. – CNN, 2-12-09

  • Barack Obama “Obama Takes His Lobbying for Stimulus to Illinois Caterpillar plant”: I also want to thank Jim Owens, who I’ve gotten to know and is one of the top CEOs that we have in the country. You know, Jim is obviously confronted with some tough choices, like every CEO is right now, but what I’m absolutely confident in is he’s thinking about the company’s long-term growth and he cares about his workers; he cares about the long term and not just the short term. And I appreciate him agreeing to serve as one of our economic advisers during this process, and I think this company is going to be in good hands with him at the helm. So thank you very much, Jim, for being a part of this event today.It’s been reconciled and now it’s going back to those two chambers so it can get on my desk. It is time for Congress to act, and I hope they act in a bipartisan fashion. But no matter how they act, when they do, when they finally pass our plan, I believe it will be a major step forward on our path to economic recovery.And I’m not the only one who thinks so. Yesterday, Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off. And that’s a story I’m confident will be repeated at companies across the country — companies that are currently struggling to borrow money selling their products, struggling to make payroll, but could find themselves in a different position when we start implementing the plan. Rather than downsizing, they may be able to start growing again. Rather than cutting jobs, they may be able to create them again.That’s the goal at the heart of this plan: to create jobs. NYT, 2-12-09
  • Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan “Is stimulus plan “theft”?”: Democratic Senator Byron Dorgan points out this is more money than has “ever been contemplated in the history of our country.” He’s proposing that the government come up with a system to show how every penny is spent, adding the real scandal is not knowing how the money is being managed. Said Dorgan, “Letting the banks be run like casinos on their own account, is that theft? You’re damn right it is.” – CNN, 2-12-09
  • Republican Senator John McCain “Is stimulus plan “theft”?”: Republican Senator John McCain is calling the bailout “generational theft.” He says we’re robbing future generations by laying such astronomical debt on their shoulders. – CNN, 2-12-09

President and Mrs. Obama at the re-opening of Ford's Theatre

  • President Obama Speaks at Lincoln Bicentennial Celebration: It is an honor to be here – a place where Lincoln served, was inaugurated, and where the nation he saved bid him a last farewell. As we mark the bicentennial of our 16th President’s birth, I cannot claim to know as much about his life and works as many of those who are also speaking today, but I can say that I feel a special gratitude to this singular figure who in so many ways made by own story possible – and who in so many ways made America’s story possible.It is fitting that we are holding this celebration here at the Capitol. For the life of this building is bound ever so closely to the times of this immortal President. Built by artisans and craftsmen, immigrants and slaves – it was here, in the rotunda, that union soldiers received help from a makeshift hospital; it was downstairs, in the basement, that they were baked bread to give them strength; and it was in the Senate and House chambers, where they slept at night, and spent some of their days.What those soldiers saw when they looked on this building was a very different sight than the one we see today. For it remained unfinished until the end of the war. The laborers who built the dome came to work wondering whether each day would be their last; whether the metal they were using for its frame would be requisitioned for the war and melted down into bullets. But each day went by without any orders to halt construction, and so they kept on working and kept on building.When President Lincoln was finally told of all the metal being used here, his response was short and clear: that is as it should be. The American people needed to be reminded, he believed, that even in a time of war, the work would go on; that even when the nation itself was in doubt, its future was being secured; and that on that distant day, when the guns fell silent, a national capitol would stand, with a statue of freedom at its peak, as a symbol of unity in a land still mending its divisions.

    It is this sense of unity, this ability to plan for a shared future even at a moment our nation was torn apart, that I reflect on today. And while there are any number of moments that reveal that particular side of this extraordinary man – that particular aspect of his leadership – there is one I’d like to share with you today.

    In the war’s final weeks, aboard Grant’s flagship, The River Queen, President Lincoln was asked what was to be done with the rebel armies once General Lee surrendered. With victory at hand, Lincoln could have sought revenge. He could have forced the South to pay a steep price for their rebellion. But despite all the bloodshed and all the misery that each side had exacted upon the other, no Confederate soldier was to be punished, Lincoln ordered. They were to be treated, as he put it, “liberally all round.” All Lincoln wanted was for Confederate troops to go back home and return to work on their farms and in their shops. He was even willing, he said, to “let them have their horses to plow with and…their guns to shoot crows with.”

    That was the only way, Lincoln knew, to repair the rifts that had torn this country apart. It was the only way to begin the healing that our nation so desperately needed. For what Lincoln never forgot, not even in the midst of civil war, was that despite all that divided us – north and south, black and white – we were, at heart, one nation and one people, sharing a bond as Americans that could not break. And so even as we meet here today, at a moment when we are far less divided than in Lincoln’s day, but when we are once again debating the critical issues of our time – and debating them fiercely – let us remember that we are doing so as servants to the same flag, as representatives of the same people, and as stakeholders in a common future. That is the most fitting tribute we can pay – and the most lasting monument we can build – to that most remarkable of men, Abraham Lincoln. Thank you. – WaPo, 2-12-09

  • CEO Contradicts Obama on Rehiring Employees Caterpillar Head Says More Layoffs Likely, Even With Stimulus Funding: “Yesterday, Jim, the head of Caterpillar, said that if Congress passes our plan, this company will be able to rehire some of the folks who were just laid off,” Obama said today in Peoria.But when asked today if the stimulus could do that, Owens said, “I think, realistically, no. The honest reality is we’re probably going to have more layoffs before we start hiring again.” ABC News, 2-12-09
  • Barack Obama “Obama Campaign to Lend Partisanship Draws Few Republican Allies”: “They were designed to try to build up some trust over time. As I continue to make these overtures, over time, hopefully that will be reciprocated.” – Bloomberg, 2-12-09
  • Republican Florida Governor Charlie Crist “Obama Campaign to Lend Partisanship Draws Few Republican Allies”: “It’s getting harder every day and we know that it’s important that we pass a stimulus package. We need to do it in a bipartisan way.” – Bloomberg, 2-12-09
  • Barney Frank “New bank bailout grants will be protected” on CBS’s “The Early Show”: We didn’t give them the second half ($350 billion) with no strings attached. The Treasury Department has agreed to impose very strict rules, and I think it would be a very big mistake to assume that the Obama administration is going to be as lax as the Bush administration…. The error is to assume that because the Bush administration resisted compensation restrictions … that the Obama administration is going to do the same. In fact, the Obama administration is behaving very differently. The fact is, these funds are being conditioned by the Obama administration. If they get the money, they are legally bound to follow certain rules.” – AP, 2-12-09

HISTORIANS’ COMMENTS

Historians’ Comments

  • Julian Zelizer “Obama’s stimulus gamble” video: Should the economic recovery plan work, the goal of saving or creating 4 million jobs will have been met and President Obama can take full credit. – Reuter, 2-12-09
  • Burton Folsom Jr. “That Buy American Provision””: “Slap a tariff on China and save American jobs,” the protectionists say. This tempting line of reasoning is flawed for two reasons. First, if Americans pay more for, say, American-made shoes or shirts, then they have less to spend for other things they might need — they are simply subsidizing inefficient local producers. And those American manufacturers, who are protected from foreign competitors, have little incentive to innovate and cut prices…. Free trade benefits buyers and sellers. Tariffs benefit certain sellers at the expense of all buyers. – NYT, 2-12-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Republican governors at odds on U.S. stimulus cash”: “When Republicans say they’re against big government, it’ll be easy to point to all these states where Republican governors embraced the funding.” – Reusters, 2-12-09
  • Julian Zelizer “Obama walks line between politics, economy”: “It’s clear there are divisions in the administration about where the financial bailout should be targeted as well as how much authority the government should gain over financial institutions….The best bet is that Geithner was vague on the detail because the administration has not settled what that detail should be.” – Reuters, 2-12-09

Mark Wilson/Getty Images)President Barack Obama with, from left, Rep. Jesse Jackson, House Minority Leader John Boehner and Speaker Nancy Pelosi, at a ceremony to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln on Thursday at the Capitol building in Washington. (Photo: Stephen Crowley/The New York Times)
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