Player of the Week: Christopher Dodd
Six months ago yesterday, Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) attended a press conference on Capitol Hill with other big-name Democrats to call on the Bush administration to do more to deal with the growing housing crisis. Then Dodd left town to campaign for the presidency in Iowa, missing a Banking committee hearing the next day on industrial loan companies.
Dodd missed a lot of hearings and a lot of Senate votes in 2007 as he poured his efforts into his campaign. He moved his family to Iowa and enrolled his daughter in school there -- all for naught. Three months ago yesterday, Dodd dropped out of the race after finishing sixth in the Hawkeye State's Democratic caucus.
Dodd returned to Capitol Hill to find a full plate of hot-button issues awaiting him and the committee he chairs, and his work since dropping out of the White House race came to fruition in recent days. Dodd was the key Democratic negotiator on the Senate's bipartisan housing bill, making him Capitol Briefing's Player of the Week.
During the recent two-week congressional recess, Democrats were lambasting President Bush and the Hill GOP in full force on the housing crisis and for the administration's handling of turmoil in the financial markets. Dodd joined the attack, complaining March 17 that "the Administration has offered only timid measures that have done little to help families keep their homes or restore confidence to financial markets."
When Congress returned to town Monday, it appeared the two parties were miles apart on how to deal with the housing crisis. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) appeared intent on bringing back the same housing stimulus bill that had been blocked by Republicans in February.
Then, a breakthrough. On Tuesday, Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) announced they would work together on moving a compromise bill, and that Dodd and Senate Banking ranking member Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) would work out the details.
In a little more than 24 hours, Dodd and Shelby crafted the measure that is currently moving toward passage in the Senate. Along the way, both sides had to compromise; Democrats had to give up a provision allowing bankruptcy judges to re-write the terms of mortgages, but they did get Republicans to agree to $4 billion in grants for cities to buy foreclosed properties.
Even if the Senate, as expected, passes the compromise bill next week on a bipartisan basis, the debate won't be over. The House is eager to get its hands on the bill, and will likely pass a package tilted more towards Democratic priorities. A House-Senate conference to reconcile the two bills will be tricky, and Dodd will be the lead Senate Democrat at the negotiating table.
Politically, Dodd may have hit his ceiling. Though he is a youthful 63 (he has two daughters aged 6 and 2), he appears unlikely to run for president again after this cycle's disappointing campaign. He could angle for a cabinet post or, as he has toyed with in the past, the Connecticut governorship.
But even if a better job never comes along, Dodd can always content himself with flexing his legislative muscles in the Senate. He has a key chairmanship in a majority that looks like it will be around for awhile, and he can continue to put his stamp on major bills for years to come. No matter what the voters in Iowa think.
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