Dodd Won't Replace Kennedy as Health Chairman, Senate Aide Says

By Paul Kane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sen. Christopher J. Dodd (D-Conn.) has decided against succeeding his close friend and mentor, the late Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) as chairman of the chamber's health committee, a senior Senate aide said Tuesday night.

The decision would set in motion a game of musical chairs involving committee chairmanships after Kennedy's death.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) is next in line after Dodd to assume the chairmanship of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, and multiple sources in the Harkin orbit, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the deliberations are internal, said Harkin would be certain to take over the post.

Harkin is chairman of the Agriculture Committee, and he would have to give up that position to take over the health committee. He would probably be replaced by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who faces a difficult reelection bid in 2010. Three other Democrats on the committee have more seniority than her: Sens. Patrick J. Leahy (Vt.), Kent Conrad (N.D.) and Max Baucus (Mont.). But each holds a more prestigious chairmanship already: Judiciary, Budget and Finance, respectively.

Dodd has scheduled a news conference for 11 a.m. Wednesday to announce his decision. His aides did not respond to questions about the decision Tuesday evening, and the senator declined to answer reporters' questions as he entered the chamber for an evening vote.

While Kennedy battled brain cancer for 15 months, Dodd, Harkin and other Democrats on the committee divided up the chairman's responsibilities, with Dodd overseeing the panel's health-care legislation. When the Senate takes up that critical legislation later this year, Dodd is expected to continue being the public face of the committee's effort, a decision that might give him a boost in a tough reelection battle in 2010.

By remaining Banking chairman, Dodd would oversee the complex rewriting of regulations governing the financial services industry.

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