The Personalities Making News Around Health Reform
Sen. Chris Dodd has taken the reins on health care reform while he juggles other bills and a tough re-election campaign, Roll Call reports.
"Not only does Dodd wield the gavel as the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs chairman, but he also is acting as a stand-in for an ailing Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Chairman Edward Kennedy, D-Mass. Complicating his day job further, the Connecticut Democrat is facing the toughest re-election fight of his 29-year Senate career. Acknowledging publicly what has been an open secret for weeks, Dodd - the No. 2 Democrat on HELP - said Tuesday that he is filling a void left by Kennedy, who has been absent from the Senate for much of the past year battling brain cancer."
Dodd will probably chair the health reform markups beginning next week and he faces a banking bill that is also a priority of the Obama administration. "Dodd, who is up for a sixth term next year, told reporters Tuesday that he expects to complete the work on both of his committees without a hitch, in part because the schedule calls for the heavy lifting on Obama's financial markets proposal to begin after the August recess. Additionally, Dodd said he plans to delegate some of the initial work on the bill to Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., who is on the Subcommittee on Financial Institutions" (Drucker and Pierce, 6/10).
The Associated Press weighs in on Dodd's increasing duties: "'Sen. Kennedy has asked (Dodd) - that's his best friend in the Senate - to take over the work on health care,' Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., told reporters. 'I don't like to make it official. He's the chairman,' Dodd said of Kennedy in a brief interview between appointments. Dodd and Kennedy are in almost daily contact. Making Dodd the Senate's point man overhauling both health care and the government's regulation of financial companies could put him in a position to strengthen his hold on a Senate seat endangered by accusations that he's been too cozy with the very companies his committee is supposed to oversee" (Kellman, 6/9).
Lobbyists in the meantime are busy poring over the Senate HELP committee reform bill with varying degrees of support or opposition, Roll Call reports in a separate story. "' I can't use the word oppose yet,' said Randy Johnson, a vice president at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. 'But we engaged in long discussions behind closed doors with Sen. Kennedy's staff, and we're disappointed in what we see.' Johnson said chamber members are against a government-run public plan option and employer mandates to provide health coverage to their employees." Others supported the work: Andy Stern, president of the Service Employees International Union, hailed Kennedy and Dodd for their "courage, passion, and vision" and commended HELP Committee members from both sides of the aisle for including the public plan option" (Ackley, 6/10).
Elsewhere in health care, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., said Tuesday that Democrats wouldn't be open to a single-payer health care system in "a million years," The Atlantic/CSPAN report: "'What, am I gonna sit here and tell you Democrats are perfect, they are immune from money, pressure? Of course they're not,' Sanders said. 'We have some wonderful Democrats who are fighting to do the right thing, but you have some conservative Democrats who will be working with Republicans,' he added" (Good, 6/9).