Although the HELP Committee approved its version of health reform, there is still much work left to be done if only Dodd wants to take it on. The Senate Finance Committee is yet to produce its version of reform, and because Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is more interested in attracting GOP votes, the Finance reform plan is likely to look much different than that from HELP.
Dodd could play a key role in helping reconcile the different versions of reform to create the final reform bill that the full Senate votes either up or down. Then, of course, there could be the opportunity to negotiate the differences between the reform versions that would be approved by the House and Senate to create one ultimate reform plan that would go to President Obama for his signature.
Getting all of that done in the current uncertain atmosphere filled by angry town hall protesters will take much leadership if only Dodd wants to be the one to provide it.
This summer, Dodd published an opinion column in a Connecticut newspaper, outlining his vision for health care reform:
For me, the bottom line is that we need to preserve the ability for people to choose their own doctors, hospitals, and insurance plans. If you like what you have, you can keep it; if you don't, you'll finally have affordable options available to you. In my view, that must include a public health insurance option in addition to private options.
It's that public option for a federally run health plan that's generating much of the contention around getting a reform plan that can pass.
Dodd may find that if he takes the lead on health reform, he may well do well by doing good. Dodd's currently locked in a tight race for re-election in 2010.
There is much affection for Kennedy in New England. If Dodd is seen as being a linchpin on finally delivering health care reform, the one major piece of Kennedy's legacy left undone, Dodd could well find himself the beneficiary of a Kennedy-sized sympathy vote come next year.