2009.09.02: All eyes on Chris Dodd
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2009.09.02: All eyes on Chris Dodd
All eyes on Chris Dodd
Stakeholders in the health care debate are waiting to see whether Sen. Chris Dodd decides to take over the late Ted Kennedy's chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee - and, if so, which Chris Dodd shows up for the job. Facing the toughest reelection fight of his 29-year Senate career, Dodd could feel enormous pressure to cut a deal and get something - anything - through the Senate in order to tout a major legislative achievement back home in Connecticut. "For his reelection, he's got to succeed," says a Democratic lobbyist working closely on health care reform. "It's important for the left. But ultimately for his reelection, it's less about keeping the left happy and more about being effective." Senator Chris Dodd of Connecticut served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Dominican Republic in the 1960's.
All eyes on Chris Dodd
Life after Ted Kennedy: all eyes on Chris Dodd
By JOHN BRESNAHAN & MANU RAJU | 9/2/09 7:51 AM EDT
Stakeholders in the health care debate are waiting to see whether Sen. Chris Dodd decides to take over the late Ted Kennedy's chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee - and, if so, which Chris Dodd shows up for the job.
Facing the toughest reelection fight of his 29-year Senate career, Dodd could feel enormous pressure to cut a deal and get something - anything - through the Senate in order to tout a major legislative achievement back home in Connecticut.
"For his reelection, he's got to succeed," says a Democratic lobbyist working closely on health care reform. "It's important for the left. But ultimately for his reelection, it's less about keeping the left happy and more about being effective."
Still, cutting a deal - especially if it involves giving up on the government-run insurance option currently in the HELP Committee bill - could infuriate liberal Democrats, whose energy and money Dodd will need to mount a come-from-behind victory against his likely challenger, former GOP Rep. Rob Simmons.
"If he's perceived among Democrats as fighting the good fight for health care reform - even if he ends up losing - he still ends up winning," said Doug Schwartz, director of the Connecticut-based Quinnipiac University Poll, which has Simmons leading Dodd by nearly 10 percentage points.
One top Senate Democratic aide pointed to a middle ground: Dodd could "play up or play down his ownership of the bill as much as he needs to," depending on whether it's popular with his base.
"This particular piece of legislation is so huge and massive that only really the president 100 percent owns it," the aide said.
Much has been made in recent days of Kennedy's abilities as an across-the-aisle deal maker. But even he would have struggled to win GOP support on health care reform. The GOP has little reason to hand President Barack Obama a victory on one of his signature issues - and maybe less reason still to give Dodd, one of the Senate's most vulnerable Democrats, anything to brag about back home.
Citing the criticism that has swirled around Dodd's chairmanship of the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee - including questions about whether he acted forcefully enough to combat the financial crisis and whether he helped American International Group executives secure lucrative bonuses - Connecticut Republican Party Chairman Chris Healy said a simple change of gavels won't be enough to restore voters' faith in their senator.
"Let's hope he doesn't do to the health care industry what he did do to the banking industry," Healy said.
Jay Howser, campaign manager for Dodd, said the senator's decision about the HELP chairmanship has nothing to do with politics. Aides and associates to Dodd said the five-term senator has been mourning Kennedy's death and, as of Monday, hadn't given the chairmanship question serious consideration.
"Chris Dodd has [been] and continues to be an effective, passionate advocate for the people of Connecticut," Howser said. "His work has always been guided by what's best for the people of Connecticut, not poll numbers."
If Dodd chooses to take the HELP chairmanship, he'll have to give up the gavel at Banking, where centrist Tim Johnson (D-S.D.) is next in line. If Dodd chooses to stay at Banking, liberal Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) would be next for HELP - if he were to give up his Agriculture Committee chairmanship to get it. If both Dodd and Harkin were to pass on the HELP Committee chairmanship, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) would get the job instead.
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Headlines: September, 2009; RPCV Chris Dodd (Dominican Republic); Figures; Peace Corps Dominican Republic; Directory of Dominican Republic RPCVs; Messages and Announcements for Dominican Republic RPCVs; Politics; Congress; Connecticut
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Story Source: Politico
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