Democratic Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd may have been out of his element when he spent a year on the campaign trail running for president in 2007 and early 2008.
He spent perhaps $5 million, some of it raised from companies and trade groups that have business before the Senate Banking Committee he heads, and he came back to Washington, his head between his knees, without garnering a single delegate for his labors.
And he may also have used poor judgment when he took a mortgage loan from a special program provided Washington insiders and others from Countrywide Financial, the now-humbled mortgage originator.
But, to borrow a phrase used so correctly by Robert Caro in his excellent biography of the majority leader career of Lyndon Johnson, Dodd is clearly a “master of the Senate.”
Whatever Dodd’s shortcomings, he is a charter member of the Senate’s inner circle, someone who understands and can translate its internal workings into accomplishments for his constituents. There is an ebb and flow to this august body that takes years to master.
Therefore, Dodd’s decision several days ago to announce that he will retain the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee to help it slog through a restructuring of financial services regulation that will likely take up all of next year was a courageous and appropriate one.
Dodd wanted off Banking and onto the Foreign Relations Committee if an opening developed because he was frustrated and depressed over the huge loss of insurance jobs over the last several years in his beloved Connecticut. [The opening on Foreign Relations occurred because Sen. Joe Biden, the current chairman, was elected vice president.]
Consolidation, heavy losses from 9/11, asbestos, environmental and malpractice claims, and strong competition from banks and securities firms have taken a mounting toll on Connecticut’s insurance companies.