Dodd Stays at Helm of Transit Panel — But at a Cost to Climate Bill?

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) announced this afternoon that he would stay on at the helm of the Banking Committee, which also has jurisdiction over federal transit issues, rather than move over to lead the health panel previously led by his friend, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-MA).

dodd_working.jpgSen. Chris Dodd (D-CT) (Photo: The Washington Note)

Dodd’s decision means that urban transit advocates will continue to work with a chairman whose state has both a large population (3.5 million, according to the most recent Census estimates) and a diverse mix of transport needs.

A Dodd departure would have given the Banking chairmanship to Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), who has supported greater transit funding in the past but nonetheless hails from a sparsely populated state where paratransit is a major priority as opposed to the construction of new bus or rail networks.

So Dodd’s choice is a good thing for clean transportation, right? Well … not entirely. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) jumped in to take that health committee chairmanship, which left an opening at the Agriculture Committee that was claimed by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D-AR).

Lincoln, as Kate Sheppard points out, has urged Democratic leaders to scrap their climate change bill and blasted the version already passed by the House as too hard on the agriculture industry. She is a vocal advocate for domestic offshore oil drilling (in addition to renewable energy incentives), and her voting record earned a low 32 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters.

Transit and other emissions-reducing transport modes are in line for as much as 10 percent of the carbon allowances generated by a future congressional climate law — but that assumes that Lincoln won’t use her new position to slow action on the measure.

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