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Dodd not replacing Kennedy on health panel, aide says

The chairmanship of the Senate health committee may fall to Tom Harkin of Iowa.

September 09, 2009|Washington Post

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

The decision sets 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 Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Multiple sources, who requested anonymity when discussing internal deliberations, said Harkin was sure to take over the post.

The Iowa lawmaker chairs the agriculture committee, and he would have to give up that position to take over the health committee. He would probably be replaced on the agriculture panel by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who faces a difficult reelection bid in 2010.

Three other Democrats on the committee have more seniority than Lincoln: Sens. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont, Kent Conrad of North Dakota and Max Baucus of Montana. But each already holds a more prestigious chairmanship.

Dodd scheduled a news conference for today to announce his decision.

His aides did not respond to questions about the decision Tuesday, 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 duties, with Dodd overseeing the panel's healthcare legislation. When the Senate takes up that crucial legislation this year, Dodd is expected to continue being the public face of the committee's effort.

By remaining chairman of the Senate's banking committee, Dodd will oversee a complex rewrite of the regulations overseeing the financial services industry.

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