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Dodd to Stay On as Banking Chairman

Updated: 11:20 p.m.Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) expected to announce as soon as Wednesday that he will stay put at the Banking panel and opt against taking over the gavel of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, according to Democratic sources.Dodd has remained publicly mum on whether he would swap chairmanships in the days following the death of his longtime friend Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), who had been the HELP panel’s chairman. And on Tuesday Dodd would only say that he hopes to make a decision “soon.—But with sources confirming that Dodd has now made up his mind, the gavel is now likely to go to the next in line, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who currently chairs the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. Harkin spokeswoman Kate Cyrul would only say Tuesday that “Sen. Harkin does not have a decision to make until Sen. Dodd announces his intentions.— If Harkin assumes the HELP role, as expected, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) would become the next chairwoman of the Agriculture Committee. That gavel could prove fortuitous for Lincoln, who is likely to face a difficult re-election race next year.Dodd also is up in 2010, and many believe his race weighed heavily on his mind as he was deciding whether to succeed Kennedy on HELP. Dodd faces the race of his career next year, and his role in the Senate could make or break his re-election.Meanwhile, leadership aides said HELP will remain one member short on the Democratic side until Kennedy is replaced. After the new Senator has been seated, Democrats will then appoint a Member to replace Kennedy permanently on HELP, aides said.

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