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60 Votes? Maybe Not Yet

Speculation has been running rampant among pundits and journalists alike about President Obama’s reported desire to nominate Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) as commerce secretary, after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) withdrew himself from consideration for the post over a federal investigation in his state.

The nomination, the thinking goes, would add to the bipartisan appeal of Obama’s cabinet, while also serving the very partisan function of removing a Republican from the Senate whose home state is trending blue — and with a Democratic governor, who would appoint Gregg’s replacement. Assuming Al Franken is ultimately seated as a Minnesota senator, a Democratic replacement would give Senate Dems the magic, filibuster-proof 60 votes.

Not so fast! Politico’s Mike Allen reports that a deal has been reached that would allow Obama to make the nomination, while allowing the GOP to keep the seat.

From Playbook:

BUZZ — Unusual behind-the-scenes deal: Democratic governor will appoint a Republican to replace Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.) after he is nominated for Commerce Secretary, so the balance of power in the Senate stays the same. The Gov benefits by burnishing his reputation for bipartisanship. Bloomberg’s Julianna Goldman says Gregg would give the President a Republican ally on the economy as ‘a player’ in dealing with the crisis, and would add more credibility to Obama’s effort to promote bipartisanship.

Oh well, it was a nice thought. Looks like the Democrats will likely have to wait until the 2010 midterm elections for another crack at the 60-vote super-majority. Fortunately for them, there are still a few moderate blue-state Republican senators — such as Pennsylvania Sen. Arlen Specter, and Maine Sens. Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins — who, depending on the issue, may not be guaranteed to vote in lock-step with their party.

Update: The source of Allen’s report was this story from The Associated Press, quoting Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who appeared on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Sunday.

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