If the rumors are true, then the Democrats are one appointment away from having a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate:
WASHINGTON — Senator Judd Gregg, Republican of New Hampshire, is the top contender to be President Obama’s nominee for commerce secretary, the White House said Saturday, a move that could strengthen Democrats’ control of Congress.
Mr. Gregg’s name has been circulated for several days as Mr. Obama tries to replace his previous nominee for commerce secretary, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who withdrew amid revelations that a grand jury is investigating how he awarded state government contracts. Mr. Gregg himself said Friday that he was under consideration.
If the senator accepts and is confirmed, he will be the third Republican appointee in the Obama cabinet. The others are Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who also held the post under President George W. Bush, and Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, a former congressman from Illinois.
A senior Obama administration official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because a formal announcement had not been made, said that Mr. Gregg was “now the leading candidate” for the commerce post and that a selection “could come as early as Monday.”
And that’s where it gets interesting:
At present, the Democrats’ Senate majority is 58, which includes two independents; that number will rise to 59 if Al Franken is seated after the legal challenge to the results of the Minnesota Senate race is completed.
If Gov. John Lynch of New Hampshire, a Democrat, replaced Mr. Gregg with a member of his own party, that would put the Democratic majority at 60 — a magic number in the Senate because it is how many votes are needed to control the legislative agenda and to block a filibuster.
But there are no guarantees that Mr. Lynch would pick a Democrat: New Hampshire prizes its political independence, and the governor is a moderate. Some analysts say he could turn to a well-regarded Republican — former Senator Warren Rudman has been mentioned — to serve as a kind of caretaker to fill out the remainder of Mr. Gregg’s term, which expires at the end of 2010.
Mr. Lynch and Mr. Gregg talked about the situation throughout the week, Democratic and Republican officials in New Hampshire say, and the governor has said he is open to appointing a Republican to the seat. A main factor in whether Mr. Gregg accepts the commerce job, these officials say, is a commitment from Mr. Lynch that he strongly consider a Republican or an independent for the Senate vacancy.
So, it all hinges on Gregg and Lynch.