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

President Obama's quest for bipartisanship now includes the New Hampshire senator, who would provide a staunchly conservative voice in the Democratic adminstration.

"We know the only way to solve the great challenges of our time is to put aside stale ideology and petty partisanship, and embrace what works," President Obama said.  "As one of the Republican Party's most respected voices and skillful negotiators, Judd is a master of reaching across the aisle [bridging party differences] to get things done."

What are commerce secretary's duties?

The president said America's economic recovery will require improvements in infrastructure, investments in science and technology, and fostering small businesses.  He noted the commerce secretary's duties include those tasks as the federal government's primary link to the business community.

Taking the podium after Mr. Obama's introduction, Gregg echoed the theme of bipartisanship and cooperation, saying both are particularly crucial at a time of economic pain and dislocation.  He also spoke of his reasons for accepting the nomination, which has raised eyebrows among Democrats and Republicans alike.

"This is a time to govern, and govern well," Gregg said.  "And therefore when the president asked me to join his administration and participate in trying to address the issues of this time, I believed it was my obligation to say yes."

Nominee endorses Obama plan to jumpstart ailing economy

Gregg endorsed President Obama's plan to jumpstart the ailing U.S. economy. In the past, he has expressed reservations about spending proposals contained in the plan.

If confirmed, Gregg's departure from the Senate comes at a time when Democrats enjoy a 58-41 advantage in the chamber, with one seat still unresolved from last year's election.  Gregg sought and received assurances that his Senate replacement would not alter the voting balance.

Should the Republican minority shrink to 40, they would lose their ability to block legislation through a parliamentary maneuver known as a filibuster. 

First commerce secretary nominee withdrew over ethics probe

This is Mr. Obama's second attempt to fill the commerce post.  His first choice, Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico, withdrew from consideration amid a federal ethics probe.

A three-term senator, Judd Gregg's committee assignments have included budget, appropriations, and education and labor.  He voted against a bailout for U.S. automakers in December, and opposed an anti-pay discrimination bill President Obama signed into law last week.