UPDATED: Harkin will chair Senate HELP Committee

Senator Ted Kennedy’s death left a vacancy as chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. I had assumed that Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who is looking vulnerable going into his re-election campaign, would jump at the chance to become the HELP committee chairman, but surprisingly, he prefers to remain chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. Paul Kane reports for the Washington Post,

Dodd’s decision leaves the chairmanship of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who follows Dodd in seniority. Multiple sources in the Harkin orbit, requesting anonymity to discuss internal deliberations, said that he is certain to take over the HELP committee.

Harkin is currently chairman of the Agriculture Committee and would have to give up that position. He would likely be replaced at Agriculture by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.), who faces a difficult reelection bid in 2010. Other Democrats are more senior than her on the Agriculture Committee, but they hold more prestigious chairmanships already.

Leaving the chairman’s position at Agriculture means Harkin will have less influence over the drafting of the next farm bill. On the other hand, the HELP Committee deals with a range of extremely important issues.

I have contacted Senator Harkin’s office seeking confirmation of this report, and I’ll update this post when I hear back from his staff.

UPDATE: Harkin will replace Kennedy as HELP chairman. His statement is after the jump, along with a statement from Iowa Democratic Party chair Michael Kiernan.

Continue Reading...
View More...