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What Will Chris Dodd Do?


Speaking of Senate Committees, Kennedy's death throws things into a bit of chaos. Tim Fernholz has a good rundown here. The basic lay of the land is this: Everything depend on Chris Dodd, who chairs the Banking Committee and has been effectively chairing the HELP Committee in Kennedy's absence. He must now decide whether he wants to officially leave Banking and chair HELP or stay put. And either decision would shuffled the committees beneath him.

If Dodd leaves, then Tim Johnson, a conservative South Dakotan, is next in line to chair the Banking Committee. But you really don't want a South Dakotan chairing that committee -- the state's economy is heavily dependent on credit card companies seeking a lax regulatory environment -- and Johnson's recent stroke has raised some questions as to whether he's up to the job. If he declines, or is passed over, it goes to Rhode Island's Jack Reed, who would be excellent.

If Dodd doesn't leave Banking, then HELP would go to Iowa's Tom Harkin, who would have to give up his post as Chairman of the Agriculture Committee to take it. The next most senior members of the Ag Committee are Leahy, Conrad and Baucus, all of whom chair more important committees. So Ag would probably go to Blanche Lincoln. If Harkin stays put -- and he is an Iowan, so chairing Ag is worth something to him -- then HELP would go to Maryland's Barbara Mikulski.

Photo credit: Reuters/Larry Downing.

By Ezra Klein  |  August 27, 2009; 1:00 PM ET
Categories:  Senate  
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I wonder whether any of these transfers could be used as horse-trading to secure cloture votes. Lincoln-to-Ag seems the most obvious one, but there may be a few moderates who would have personal or policy reasons for wanting to see committees go a certain way -- for example, Nelson (D-Student Loans) might prefer Johnson in Banking.

Posted by: tomveiltomveil | August 27, 2009 1:27 PM | Report abuse

The best would be for Dodd to take the HELP Chair. It gets him away from the Banking Issues that are going to dog him in the 2010 election, and instead wrap himself up in Healthcare and be the one fighting Baucus & Co.

Johnson is worrisome over banking, be we need to be honest: none of our reform was going to happen even with Dodd as Chair of Banking. It also works very poorly for our arguments in 2008 in getting Johnson re-elected that he was fit enough to server is we promptly throw him under the bus due to "health" now. Long term, because of his age, it's going to be Jack Reed's committee down the road. Give it to Johnson now and perhaps work out the deal in advance for Reed to take it in the 113th Congress in 2013.

The conflict with SD's banking interests... as if we don't have that with Tom Harkin in Ag now or with Blanche Lincoln if she took Ag?


Posted by: toshiaki | August 27, 2009 1:45 PM | Report abuse

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