Tom Harkin’s Retirement Will Leave Education Committee Gap: Ed Today

Tom Harkin Out? This weekend, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) announced he won't be running for reelection. While the "liberal lion's" announcement made news, what I didn't see mentioned in many stories about the retirement is that Harkin is chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions committee — the very one that is in charge of dealing with the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. So what's next for HELP? Harkin has told me he intends to reset the reauthorization process while he's still there, but as the folks at Politics K-12 note, that desire could "set up an interesting dynamic with the Obama administration," which is more focused on implementing the waivers it has issued from the law to 34 states and Washington, D.C. The White House wasn't exactly thrilled with the bill his committee moved last year.

Also, his retirement will leave a gaping hole in the chairmanship of the committee. Some have said that, by seniority, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), a former preschool teacher, is next in line. But taking into account other senators' chairmanships — Murray, for example, chairs the Budget Committee — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) might just be up next, someone pretty smart told me. Now wouldn't that be interesting?


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