FoxNews confirmed last night that Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa will succeed the late Senator Edward Kennedy as Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The current Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Harkin will take the gavel from Interim Chair Chris Dodd, who elected earlier in the week to remain Chair of the powerful Senate Banking committee. Rules of the Senate preclude Senators from holding more than one Chairmanship concurrently.
By those same rules, it appears the Ag gavel will now fall to Senator Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas as more senior Ag Senators already hold more illustrious Chairs. Pat Leahy of Vermont Chairs the Judiciary committee, Kent Conrad of North Dakota the Budget Committee, and Max Baucus has the Finance Committee. All three sit between Lincoln and Harking in seniority, but are highly unlikely to relinquish their current positions.
The Washington Post reports that Senator Lincoln is in a tough 2010 reelection bid, and will likely have to stiffen her conservative credentials in the state to retain her seat in the Senate; a strong showing as Ag Committee Chair could help her do just that.
Official announcements from Senator Harkin are expected later today, with the ensuing shuffle on the Ag panel to follow.