The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee will have a large and complicated agenda in the 110th Congress, trying to increase the minimum wage, improve health care, and make college more affordable.
But accomplishing those goals may be a bit harder now that a third Democratic member of the panel has expressed a desire to be president.
Sen. Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., the second most senior member of the committee, announced last week that he will seek his party’s nomination in 2008.
On his campaign Web site, Sen. Dodd said “there is no more important domestic-policy priority for our country than providing an excellent education to every American child.”
Other potential candidates from the committee are Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois. They haven’t officially declared their candidacies, but both are openly considering presidential bids and are widely expected to join the fray.
The proliferation of prospective presidents could alter the political dynamics of the Senate education panel. With three of its members seeking the national spotlight, they’ll certainly use the committee’s agenda to boost their chances to win the White House.
At the same time, they may try to steal their rivals’ moment in the limelight, according to Washington insiders who have lobbied the committee.
Efforts to reauthorize the No Child Left Behind Act will be especially difficult because of the presidential aspirations of the committee members, one former Senate aide said. Even if the Democrats can set aside their differences and unite behind an NCLB bill, Republicans are likely to fight against it to keep it off the résumé of a potential Democratic presidential nominee, said the former aide, who asked not to be named because she lobbies the committee.
In addition, the logistics of running the committee could become more difficult for its chairman, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.
With presidential hopefuls on the road and spending an inordinate amount of time raising money, they may not be able to attend the panel’s working sessions, said Norman Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, a Washington think tank.
“The challenge for Kennedy will be to get people there and keep them there,” Mr. Ornstein said.
A version of this article appeared in the January 17, 2007 edition of Education Week