Dodd expected to announce his committee decision on Wednesday

Dodd could replace the late Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) as chairman of the health and education committee as Congress begins the most critical period of debate over healthcare reform legislation.

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Four sources said on Tuesday that they expect Dodd to announce his decision as early as Wednesday morning about whether to leave the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee to take up the gavel of the health committee.

Dodd has helmed the committee for most of the year as Kennedy battled brain cancer.

Since Kennedy died, Dodd has remained quiet about the decision.

“We'll make a decision shortly, but not tonight,” Dodd said late on Tuesday.

If Dodd decided to take up the gavel of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee, he likely would hand over his Banking gavel to Sen. Tim Johnson (D-S.D.), who suffered a stroke in 2006. The banking panel is weighing major changes to the financial industry in an effort to prevent future crises.

Dodd was the second-ranking Democrat behind Kennedy on the HELP committee, and the two senators were longtime friends.

If Dodd decides to remain as chairman of the banking committee, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) would be next in line to replace Kennedy. Harkin is currently chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee.