WASHINGTON -- Connecticut Sen. Chris Dodd said Thursday he intends to remain at the helm of the Senate Banking Committee next year rather than take on a new assignment in the post-election leadership shuffle.
After taking a day to consider his options, Dodd decided against succeeding Sen. Joe Biden as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and will instead remain chairman of the Banking Committee -- a post he assumed in January 2007 when Democrats regained the majority in the upper chamber.
"As a United States Senator from Connecticut, there is no more important way right now that I can serve the people of Connecticut and our country than as Banking Committee Chairman," Dodd said. "In this role, at this moment, I am confident I can do the greatest good."
Biden's election as vice president will leave the Foreign Relations Committee without a chairman. As the next most senior Democrat, Dodd could have claimed the position. Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry is next in line, but he appears to be vying instead for a Cabinet post as secretary of state.
Dodd had also been rumored to be in the running for the chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee should ailing Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., decide to step aside. Kennedy, who turns 77 in February, has returned to Capitol Hill, but is still undergoing treatment for brain cancer.
Dodd, who called a press conference at the U.S. Capitol to announce his plans for the
111th Congress, said the economy is in a terrible mess that is having real life implications for his constituents.
"Every day for the past several weeks, an average of 44 families in my state enter foreclosure -- some 16,000 in all," he said.
Dodd is up for re-election in 2010 and has seen his popularity diminish in recent state polls where voters have expressed concerns about his short-lived bid for the presidency.
By focusing on domestic issues -- particularly the economy, which voters overwhelmingly said Tuesday was their top concern -- Dodd may see this as a way to boost his support within Connecticut.
Dodd said that he hopes his committee will continue to work in a bipartisan way:
n Overseeing the Administration's implementation of the $700 billion financial bailout Congress recently approved;
n Swiftly considering the nominations of President-elect Obama's economic team;
n Preparing legislation to modernize the regulatory system for financial markets to include strong regulators, responsible supervision of all types of markets, more transparency and consumer protections;
n Strengthening protections for consumers in the areas of mortgage lending, credit card lending, and investor rights;
n And, reauthorizing the funding formula for state transit programs.
Dodd indicated that he would like Obama to nominate his economic team as soon as possible so that the committee can begin the vetting process immediately. He also suggested that Congress could enact another economic stimulus bill before the end of the year.