Senate Ag Committee Chairmanship Could See Changes

Sen. Tom Harkin could leave Senate Ag Committee helm to take over Health Committee after Sen. Ted Kennedy's death this week.

The death of veteran senator Ted Kennedy this week will cause a ripple effect in the U.S. Senate where he leaves a vacancy in the Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.

Because the Ranking Democrat on that committee, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, is also Chair of the Senate Banking Committee and each senator can only hold one chairmanship, Dodd will have to decide whether he wants to chair HELP (which faces major responsibility for health care legislation) or Banking.

While there are many possible scenarios, if Dodd does not take the HELP appointment, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, probably will. Harkin is the current chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee. If he does take the HELP Chairmanship, the most likely candidate to take his Chair is Sen. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas.

If Lincoln becomes chair of the Agriculture Committee, she would significantly alter the committee’s focus from Midwestern to Southern as the Ranking Member, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, is also a southerner.

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