Gregg: "Simply a bridge too far for me"

Judd Gregg explains his decision to withdraw his nomination for Commerce secretary; meanwhile, Hill sources open up about what happened.

By Alex Koppelman

Published February 13, 2009 12:10AM (EST)

"I've been my own person for 30 years ... made my own decisions, stood for what I believe in," New Hampshire Sen. Judd Gregg said at a press conference Thursday afternoon at which he discussed his decision to withdraw his nomination to be Commerce secretary. "It just became clear to me that it would be very difficult day in and day out to serve in this Cabinet or any Cabinet for that matter, and be part of a team and not be 100 percent with the team."

This was Gregg's message throughout the press conference, that he simply couldn't be fully devoted to the Obama administration and that's why he'd decided to withdraw.

"For me, I just realized as these issues started to come at us and they started to crystallize, that it really wasn't a good fit," Gregg said. "I realize that to withdraw at this point is really unfair in many ways, but to ... find myself sitting there and not being able to do the job the way it should be done on behalf of the president, that would have been an even bigger mistake ... Bottom line is this was simply a bridge too far for me."

That wasn't quite the message coming from Republicans on Capitol Hill, who were telling reporters that the Obama administration had driven Gregg to this move. One unnamed "Republican aide familiar with" Gregg's decision told CNN that the New Hampshire senator had been discussing the move with GOP leaders over the "past couple of days." CNN also talked to a GOP Senate aide who said the decision to have more White House oversight over the Census was the catalyst for Gregg's announcement.

Similarly, an anonymous "Democratic source close to the White House" told the network that the administration has "to take some of the blame for this. They almost humiliated him by taking the Census away from him." On the other hand, the same source said, the White House was insulted by Gregg's decision to recuse himself from voting on the stimulus.

Meanwhile, congressional Democrats are criticizing Gregg for his actions, as White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs did earlier. In a statement given to Salon, Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., who chairs the Commerce Committee, said, "I wish Sen. Gregg had thought through the implications of his nomination more thoroughly before accepting this post." And in her Twitter feed, Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., wrote, "Old ways die hard around here. I know our President won't give up on changing the unproductive partisan habits.

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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Judd Gregg R-n.h.