Choice of Gregg would not hurt GOP, McConnell says - The Boston Globe

Senator Judd Gregg, the New Hampshire Republican who is the leading candidate to be secretary of commerce, has assured Senate colleagues that he would be replaced by a person aligned with Republicans even though the appointment would be made by the state's Democratic governor, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said yesterday.

McConnell's statement raised questions about whether some kind of deal has been made regarding Gregg's replacement before President Obama has announced his pick for the commerce job.

In an interview on CBS-TV's "Face the Nation," McConnell said, "Senator Gregg has assured me that if this were to happen - if it were to happen - he would not change the makeup of the Senate. In other words, whoever is appointed to replace him would caucus with Senate Republicans."

That means Gregg's replacement would either be a Republican or an Independent who would agree to be aligned with Republicans.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond School of Law professor who has examined the appointment powers of governors, said he was surprised that McConnell would "imply" that a deal had been made before the nomination was announced by Obama.

Tobias said it was particularly surprising given the controversy that has surrounded Senate appointments by the governors of Illinois and New York. "I don't think there is a question of legality," Tobias said. "The question is, is it appropriate to make those kind of advance commitments. It is a matter of appearance. It is somewhat problematic given what we've seen recently. It is troubling, I think, to have people saying that before any appointments have been made."

Tobias said he had thought the recent controversies over appointments would make governors skittish about any action that would raise questions.