Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Chairman Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) on Wednesday afternoon will officially inform his colleagues and the public that he will stay put at the Banking panel and opt against taking over the gavel of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. “The Senator’s decision is based in large measure on his desire to see through the important work the Committee is engaged in on financial regulatory modernization and a whole range of other important issues,— Ed Silverman, staff director for the Banking Committee, said in a statement released Wednesday. 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. Dodd has been pinch hitting for Kennedy on health care reform for much of the year while Kennedy battled brain cancer. Sen. Tom Harkin (Iowa), the next most senior Democratic member of HELP, is expected to assume leadership of that panel. If Harkin takes the HELP gavel, as expected, Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) would become the next chairwoman of the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee. That position could prove fortuitous for Lincoln, who is likely to face a difficult re-election race next year.