Will Kennedy's Death Affect Healthcare, Financial Reform?

Sen. Ted Kennedy's passing early this morning could have an impact on the health care bill. What impact, exactly, we don't know. It could galvanize moderate Democrats to support universal health care, which was famously the cause of Kennedy's life. Or Kennedy's death could leave the Massachusetts Senate seat open for months, keeping Democrats from taking from taking full advantage of their 60-seat majority. But the repercussions don't end with health care, reports the Wall Street Journal:

The overnight news opens the chairmanship of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee to Kennedy's old friend, Sen. Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who, facing his toughest re-election campaign, is likely to take it and escape the cloud of controversy from his chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee.

If Dodd makes the move, the Banking Committee chairmanship could go to the Democrat next in line, Sen. Tim Johnson ... A low key moderate not noted for his charisma or influence, Johnson would then have to take up Obama's effort to re-regulate in the financial sector, a tough task even for the most dynamic and seasoned of lawmakers. That makes the odds even longer to get the re-regulation package passed this year, as the president has promised.

Many people consider Johnson to be more friendly toward banks than most Democrats, particularly because of the huge presence of Citigroup in his home state of South Dakota...

Once again, financial reform faces an uphill climb worthy of Sisyphus. If it were merely slotted behind a contentious and very-likely-impossible climate change bill; or if it were merely scheduled for consideration when most of the bailed-out banks will be months, if not a year, from their darkest days; or it were merely at the hands of a South Dakota moderate with neither the will nor the charisma to line up Democrats to vote against the banks' interests... Da-da-yenu. But fortunately for the banks and unfortunately perhaps for the rest of us, re-regulation will be batting against a fastball carried by typhoonish headwinds in a few months.