Gregg Expects to Vote ‘No’ on Stimulus,Downplays Concerns Over Census

By Teddy Davis

Feb 13, 2009 12:56pm

ABC News’ Teddy Davis reports: Sen. Judd Gregg, R-N.H., withdrew from consideration for Commerce Secretary at a Feb. 12, 2009, press conference on Capitol Hill.
Ferdous Al-Faruque/ ABC News Barack Obama’s erstwhile pick to run the Commerce Department said Friday he expects to vote against the president’s stimulus package when it comes to a vote in the United States Senate. "I presume I will be, yes," Gregg told CNBC’s "Squawk Box" when asked if he would be voting against the stimulus. "I haven’t made a final statement on that, but that’s philosophically where I probably am." Gregg discussed his inclination to vote against the president’s stimulus plan one day after announcing that he was withdrawing his name from consideration to be United States Secretary of Commerce. In a written statement released Thursday, Gregg identified the stimulus and the census as two "irresolvable conflicts" with the Obama administration. But when Gregg was specifically asked at a Thursday press conference how he would vote on the stimulus, he deflected, saying, "Well, can I save that for tomorrow when we vote on the stimulus bill?" Back on Feb. 4, Gregg said that he would not be voting on the stimulus bill, or any other legislation, while he was under consideration for Commerce Secretary. In Friday’s CNBC interview, Gregg critiqued the stimulus by saying that a "tactical error" was made in allowing "the appropriators" to write it. He said this made it "unfocused" and "disjointed" although he also said that the stimulus has gotten better as it has gone forward. Asked how the stimulus could be re-worked in order to win his support, Gregg said: "They don’t need to rework it now. They got their votes." When asked if White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel was going to try to "hijack" the census for partisan purposes, Gregg said: "That’s a good question. We’ll have to see what happens. The way it was explained to me was that it was — the census would still report to the Commerce Secretary, but the White House wanted to have a major interest in the census process also." Asked if he felt comfortable with that, Gregg said, "I actually hadn’t concluded as to how that was going to play out, to be honest with you. I thought that when I got there, I could probably straighten that out if it was a problem." He then added that he was "a little surprised, in fact, disappointed, that some of the groups basically prejudged" his ability to manage the Commerce Department before he even got there. When Obama first nominated Gregg to head the Commerce Department, the Congressional Black Caucus and an organization representing Hispanic elected officials publicly raised questions about whether Gregg could be trusted not to undercount minorities. In his CNBC interview, Gregg voiced confidence in Ken Pruitt, the person whom the White House has proposed to manage the census. Gregg worked with Pruitt in 2000 when the New Hampshire senator chaired a congressional committee with oversight over the Commerce Department. "I thought he did an excellent job," said Gregg. "I think the people in place will do a good census, and we’ll have to wait and see." Update: Gregg: ‘Stimulus Measure Falls Short’ At 5:49 pm ET, Gregg released an official statement, "Stimulus Measure Falls Short," explaining why he decided to vote against the stimulus bill on Friday evening. See below for the full text of Gregg’s written statement: "Our country is facing one of the greatest economic challenges of our lifetime, and I believe sizable action is needed to help our economy begin moving forward again. Today, the American people are worried about their jobs, home values, retirement savings, and Main Street businesses, and we need an economic plan that brings immediate relief, creates jobs, and strengthens American production to get our nation back on course." "However, I am concerned that this so-called stimulus bill falls short of what is needed.  What was initially advertised as a well-intended effort to boost economic growth has become sidetracked by misplaced spending and lack of attention to the true problems facing the nation, especially housing.  Massive amounts of money will be spent years after this bill is signed into law, thereby undermining claims that it is stimulative.  Also, the bill’s tax relief provisions will not adequately spur investment and business activity, which are critical for job creation and economic growth." "This bill, therefore, is not timely, targeted, and temporary, which is what a stimulus bill should be.  And with a deteriorating budget situation, we cannot afford a proposal that will saddle future generations with massive amounts of debt with little to show for it in return." ABC News’ Z. Byron Wolf and Ferdous Al-Faruque contributed to this report.

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