The Curious Case of Fred P. Hochberg

Is this the face of the next Secretary of Commerce? There is a small but steady drumbeat in the far reaches of the blogosphere that hopes that may be the case.

Mr. Hochberg is the former dean of the Milano School for Management and Urban Policy in New York. Prior to that, he was a board member of the Human Rights Comission and the Port Authority of New York. He also served as President of his family's company, Lillian Vernon–during which time, he turned the small mail-order company into a publicly traded corporate success story.

During the Clinton administration, Hochberg served as deputy administrator for the Small Business Administration. He holds a  BA from NYU and an MBA from Columbia.

However, besides those qualifications, there is one thing that has put Mr. Hochberg on the radar: he's gay.

The Obama cabinet is wonderfully diverse. It has men, women, African Americans, Asian Americans and Latinos. It has people of all ages from all parts of the country. It even has Republicans. However, one thing that it does not have–that no cabinet has ever had–is an openly gay member. 

After New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson withdrew his name from consideration for the post, a small but steady drumbeat began to surface on some GLBT blogs suggesting that Hochberg was the man for the job. However, the nomination of NH Sen. Judd Gregg, followed by Hochberg's appointment to head the US Import-Export Bank quickly dashed those hopes.

But, the Gregg debacle has opened new hope for Hochberg's boosters. The belief is that the best way for Obama to redeem himself after nominating the conservative Republican (rated 33% by the Human Rights Commission) is to nominate the moderate-liberal Hochberg (former President of the Human Rights Commission). Hochberg has not been confirmed to serve as Import-Export Bank president, and scuttlebutt is he would serve in the position if asked. 

Will Fred P. Hochberg be nominated to serve as Commerce Secretary? It's admittedly an outside chance in a field crowded with so many highly qualified possibilities. But if Obama wants to add another to his administration's growing list of “firsts”, it remains a curious possibility. 

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Update on cabinet appointments and confirmations

The Senate confirmed Eric Holder as attorney general today by a vote of 75-21. Both Tom Harkin and Chuck Grassley voted yes, as expected. I always thought Holder would be confirmed, but I am pleasantly surprised that he was approved by a larger majority than Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. I believe Holder will turn out to be one of President Barack Obama’s better cabinet appointments.

For reasons I cannot fathom, Obama appears ready to appoint Senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, a conservative Republican, as Secretary of Commerce. Chris Bowers concisely explains why this is an awful choice:

So, for some reason, in the wake of total Republican intransigence on the stimulus bill, the Obama administration will respond by putting a Republican in charge of one the federal departments overseeing the economy. Judd Gregg himself has said he will oppose the stimulus package. That is certainly an, um, interesting way for the Obama administration to incentivize Republican opposition. Oppose President Obama, and he will reward you by giving you a cabinet position.

It is worth noting what sort of ideas Judd Gregg has for the economy: a commission of center-right insiders operating in secret and circumventing Congress in order to destroy Social Security and Medicare.

Senate Republicans continue to hold up Hilda Solis’s confirmation as Labor Secretary, and Obama responds by appointing Gregg to the cabinet?

Democrats won’t even get a Senate seat out of the deal, because the Democratic governor of New Hampshire has promised to appoint a Republican to serve out Gregg’s term. The only upside is that the appointee may be easier to beat in 2010 than longtime incumbent Gregg would have been. But that’s not worth handing over control of the Commerce Department to a conservative, in my opinion.

All I can say is, Gregg better not screw around with the Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

In a dispatch from bizarro world, Politico’s David Rogers still isn’t convinced that Obama is serious about bipartisanship, even though Gregg will become the third Republican in his cabinet and will be replaced by a Republican in the Senate:

Obama, while talking a good game about bipartisanship, is draining the Senate of the very talent he needs to achieve this goal.

If only Obama were merely “talking a good game about bipartisanship.”

Speaking of Senate Republicans, Kagro X put up a good post on prospects for a filibuster of the economic stimulus bill, and Chris Bowers posted a “whip count” here, concluding that

Overall, it seems highly likely that the stimulus will pass without Republicans forcing major changes. However, given the narrow margins, this is not a guarantee.

The Senate will likely vote on the bill on Wednesday. Grassley has already spoken out against what he calls the “stimulus/porkulus bill.”

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Richardson out--Who should be the new Commerce Secretary?

I didn’t see this one coming. Bill Richardson has withdrawn from consideration for the Commerce Department job in Barack Obama’s cabinet because of a pending FBI investigation. He denies any wrongdoing and will continue to serve as governor of New Mexico. (It’s bad luck for Diane Denish, who was set to become that state’s first woman governor in a few weeks.)

The Commerce Department is big and oversees a lot of important agencies, like the Census Bureau and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Whom will Obama pick for the Commerce job, and whom should he pick?

UPDATE: Jake Tapper says people on the Obama transition team feel Richardson “was not forthcoming with them about the federal investigation that is looking into whether the governor steered a state contract towards a major financial contributor.”

A CNN report suggests Richardson was forced to withdraw his name from consideration.

Reuters speculates about who might replace Richardson.

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