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Page last updated at 17:09 GMT, Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Republican to join Obama cabinet

Judd Gregg
Mr Gregg voted to abolish the Commerce Department in 1995

US President Barack Obama has picked Republican Senator Judd Gregg to be his commerce secretary.

Mr Gregg will be the second Republican to join Mr Obama's cabinet, after Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

Mr Gregg's senate replacement will be picked by New Hampshire Governor John Lynch, a Democrat.

But Mr Gregg said he would only take the job if Mr Lynch pledged to pick a replacement who would not alter the Senate's balance of power.

Mr Lynch is expected to appoint Republican Bonnie Newman, a former chief of staff to Mr Gregg, the Associated Press news agency reported.

'Master'

Announcing his choice, Mr Obama said Mr Gregg "will be an outstanding addition to the depth and experience of my economic team".

"Judd is a master of reaching across the aisle to get things done," he added.

Mr Obama had originally picked New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson to be his commerce secretary, but Mr Richardson decided to withdraw his name after a an investigation was launched into a state contract that had been given to his campaign donors.

Mr Obama pledged to appoint members of both parties to his cabinet.

As well as the two registered Republicans, Mr Obama asked Robert Gates, a registered independent who had served under Republican presidents, to continue as defence secretary.

As commerce secretary, Mr Gregg will oversee the collection of economic data and the issuing of patents. He will also make decisions about the US telecommunications infrastructure.

As a senator in 1995, Mr Gregg voted for the abolition of the Department of Commerce as part of a package of budget cuts, Congressional Quarterly reported.

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