By John Sawyer
UPDATE: After this post was written last week, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin confirmed that he will take the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) gavel. Read NACHC’s statement here.
One of the questions raised by the passing of Senator Edward M. Kennedy – that of who will take over as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee – looks to be resolved.
Multiple sources are reporting that Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), who is next in line to head the Committee, will instead stay in his current role as Chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. The HELP Committee gavel would then almost certainly go to Iowa Democrat (and long-time Health Center Champion) Senator Tom Harkin.
The change has implications for the ongoing health care reform debate, though both Harkin and Dodd are expected to continue playing a strong role in negotiations over the future of the bill. Because he would presumably now chair both the HELP Committee (which creates and modified health programs) and the Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee (which funds those programs), the move would give Senator Harkin a greatly expanded role in health matters.
We’ll be back with a statement once the change in Committee lineups is official. Until then, keep your browser tuned here for the latest updates from the Hill.