Link Gregg Voted to Kill Commerce Before He Agreed to Lead It By Jonathan Allen, CQ Staff President Obama’s new candidate to run the Commerce Department voted in favor of abolishing the agency as a member of the Budget Committee and on the Senate floor in 1995. Sen. Judd Gregg , R-N.H., whose nomination was expected to be announced Tuesday, also worked in the Senate to trim the department’s budget as head of the Commerce-Justice-Science Appropriations Subcommittee. Gregg’s 1995 votes were cast for the fiscal 1996 budget resolution, a nonbinding blueprint that outlined the GOP’s fiscal priorities after Republicans won full control of Congress for the first time in 40 years. The Senate version of the controversial measure envisioned spending cuts of more than $960 billion, almost half of it from Medicare and Medicaid. Democratic efforts to amend it were uniformly rebuked by a united GOP majority on the Budget Committee. Ultimately, the Commerce Department survived, and Gregg has since shown more interest than most of his Republican colleagues in funding some of its agencies, particularly the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Gregg also fought President Bill Clinton’s efforts to increase funding for the Commerce Department to administer the 2000 census. Indeed, Gregg’s commitment to basic functions of the department has been questioned at times. “He was generally pretty harsh on them and not really interested in their programs, especially the commerce side of things,” said a Democratic appropriations aide. The aide also called Gregg “really smart and hard-working” and said he would work well within Obama’s Cabinet. It is not unprecedented for a lawmaker who supported abolishing a Cabinet department to take its helm. In 2001, the recently defeated Sen. Spencer Abraham, R‑Mich., was confirmed to run the Energy Department even though he had once cosponsored legislation to eliminate it. Still, even some Republicans are surprised by Gregg’s apparent enthusiasm for the job. “I guess if you can’t destroy it, go be in charge of it,” said a Senate Republican aide. Neither Gregg’s office nor the White House replied to requests for comment.