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Lobbyists Pushing Dodd to HELP

“The lobbying community has a very minimal role in this,” one veteran lobbyist said. “It’s a matter of personal relationships. This is something, in the end, Chairman Dodd has to make a decision about.”

Dodd’s rise as HELP chairman would likely be an easy transition given his position as a central leader on the committee, shepherding the panel’s health care reform bill while Kennedy was receiving treatment for cancer.

While Dodd doesn’t have a large health care following, he has long been close to the insurance industry, which has a large presence in his home state of Connecticut.

Additionally, with most of the health care reform debate happening in the Senate Finance Committee, lobbyists say being close to Dodd is less of a concern for them.

Several Democratic lobbyists also said it would be detrimental if Senate Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who is next in seniority behind Dodd on the HELP Committee, takes over the reigns.

Harkin isn’t seen as an aggressive chairman, lobbyists say. His chairmanship would also concentrate a lot of power over health care, since he is also chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

But it’s not at all clear whether Harkin would be interested in relinquishing his role as Agriculture chairman.

Health care lobbyists would much rather have Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), next in line behind Harkin on the HELP panel, take over as chairwoman, given the pharmaceutical and biotech industry in her home state.

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