Sources: Dodd to Stay at Banking

Senate insiders tell Politico that Dodd will continue as lead player on financial overhaul

Sen. Chris Dodd is expected to remain chairman of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee, two Senate insiders told POLITICO.

Dodd is expected to make the announcement Wednesday, according to sources in Connecticut and Washington.

A decision to stay at the banking panel rather than take the gavel at the Senate would be a surprise after widespread speculation that the embattled Dodd would prefer to take the top spot at the Health, Education, Pensions and Labor committee left vacant by the late Ted Kennedy. But staying at Banking would allow Dodd to be the lead player on a major overhaul of financial regulations later this fall. With Dodd staying on Banking, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), would be next in line to take the Health committee chairmanship and guide that panel through the final negotiations on health care.

Dodd would not confirm the decision or the timing Tuesday night, telling reporters “we’ll make a decision shortly, but not tonight.”

Senators and aides signaled that talks were ongoing between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and the Democratic leadership about which course he would take. There remained the possibility that he would stay as banking chairman for assurances he would still play a large role in health care, sources said.

“There are still discussions going on,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), chairwoman of the Senate Steering and Outreach Committee, which advises Reid on commttee assignments. "Chris will play a major role in health care no matter what, but I'm not prepared to talk about specifics at this point."

She said it would be resolved “sometime this week.”

While Capitol Hill’s attention has been riveted on the health care debate, a Dodd departure from the banking panel would carry serious consequences for another top White House priority, the overhaul of the nation’s financial regulatory structure. Dodd’s views are largely in line with the Obama administration, while next in line for the top banking spot Tim Johnson of South Dakota is seen as far more friendly to the banking industry.

“This issue of who’s going to be chairman and who’s not going to be chairman is probably going to affect hugely what are agenda is going to be over the next several months, and whether a new chairman would want to regroup and look at things from a different place or whether they’d want to build off of what’s already happened, I don’t know,” said Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.).

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