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Is a possible 60th Senate seat worth a not-very-green GOP Commerce Secretary?

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"Is a possible 60th Senate seat worth a not-very-green GOP Commerce Secretary?"

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Sen. Judd Gregg (R-NH) is “now the leading candidate for Commerce Secretary and could be announced as soon as Monday,” blogged ABC’s Jake Tapper Saturday.

Should progressives view this as a positive? Gregg is no Bill Richardson who would have been the first green Secretary of Commerce. In theory, Gregg is moderately green, at least as Republicans go, with a 53% LCV rating — but he is no fan of clean energy, voting pretty consistently over the years with conservative know-nothings like James Inhofe on bills such as:

So what is the positive here? Possibly the Holy Grail — a 60th Democratic Senator appointed by New Hampshire’s Democratic Governor. Possibly not, according to the Washington Times:

One scenario being discussed in Democratic circles has Mr. Lynch, a centrist governor who has made a point of working with Republicans, agreeing to select a senior Republican figure or a nonpartisan replacement for the last two years of Mr. Gregg’s term. The appointee would agree not to run in 2010.

That would be quite a lame scenario. Gregg isn’t worth it if there’s no Democratic replacement.

Commerce may not be the Department of Energy in terms of its importance to clean energy, but the Secretary certainly has a big voice on US economic policy and US trade missions, as well as U.S. technology policy. In 2005, Gregg voted against an increase in clean energy R&D funding specifically aimed at Commerce:

To promote innovation and U.S. competitiveness by expressing the sense of the Senate urging the Senate Committee on Appropriations to make efforts to fund the Advanced Technology Program, which supports industry-led research and development of cutting-edge technologies with broad commercial potential and societal benefits.

But the vast majority of Republicans simply don’t support aggressive government led technology policy — and that goes double for clean energy technology (see “Who got us in this energy mess? Start with Ronald Reagan.”

And remember that Commerce oversees NOAA, one of the lead federal agencies on climate science (see “For NOAA head, Obama appoints yet another scientist who gets climate“). A Commerce secretary who really gets global warming can be a strong spokesperson for NOAA research like this NOAA stunner: Climate change “largely irreversible for 1000 years,” with permanent Dust Bowls in Southwest and around the globe.

The Democratic bench is quite deep on people who get the importance of clean energy to commerce. At the same time, the GOP is showing very little signs of bipartisanship now — and is certain to break with Obama utterly on all things climate. Obama’s appointment of yet another Republican is not going to change conservative ideology or the strong desire the GOP has to see Obama fail.

So we better get a 60th Democratic Senator if Obama is going to stick yet another not-very-green Republican in his otherwise uber-green cabinet.

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One Response to Is a possible 60th Senate seat worth a not-very-green GOP Commerce Secretary?

  1. Brendan says:

    How does the Department of Commerce work? Let’s say Obama approaches him to do the job and says I want our country to be free of foreign oil in 8 years, and I want you to work on x, y and z green things. Is that a plausible scenario, or does that just not happen?

    [JR: No, not like that. Commerce is more about individual programs to help business. He could say, I want to double exports of green tech in 8 years.]