U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa

Harkin Takes HELP Chairman's Post

The Iowa senator accepted the position vacated by Sen. Ted Kennedy's death, after Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., chose to retain the Banking Committee's chairmanship.

U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin, an Iowa Democrat with 25 years of service in the Senate, will succeed Sen. Ted Kennedy as chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, multiple news outlets reported Wednesday night. Harkin is second in seniority among the committee's Democrats, but Sen. Chris Dodd, a close friend of Kennedy's, chose not to cede his chairman's position of the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee. Dodd confirmed his choice Wednesday with a statement posted on his Senate Web site.

The committee has been virtually frozen during the recent congressional recess and during the final months of Kennedy's illness. No news releases or hearing announcements have been posted since Sept. 3, and the committee's site still indicates Kennedy is chairman.

Born in Cumming, Iowa, to an Iowa coal miner and a Slovenian immigrant mother, Harkin served as Navy pilot from 1962 to 1967, according to his online bio. Education, health care, and medical research have been his core issues during his Senate service, and his biggest achievement during his five terms has been the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act in 1990 (ADA), it says.

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