LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) - Senator Blanche Lincoln may be in line to chair the Senate Agriculture Committee, but Lincoln doesn't want to discuss the matter because of the way the seat may come open.
Committee chairmanships would shuffle if Senator Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., who is undergoing treatment for a malignant brain tumor, can't continue to serve. Kennedy says he plans to return to the Senate in January.
Lincoln is among Democrats with the seniority to chair the Agriculture Committee. Three other Democratic senators on the panel have greater seniority than Lincoln, but each of the three already chairs another committee. By rule, senators can't chair two or more committees, which would enable Lincoln to advance.
If Kennedy does not continue, that would open the chairmanship of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is next in seniority to chair the panel. Harkin is also the current Agriculture Committee chairman.
Lincoln says she knows the chairmanship is a possibility but says she wants Kennedy to continue in the seat.
Lincoln would not be a lock for the chairmanship if Kennedy stands down. There is the possibility that Harkin would keep his Agriculture Committee chairmanship, particularly considering Iowa's status as a farm state. Also, Senator Kent Conrad, D-N.D., could give up chairmanship of the Budget Committee and take the agriculture seat.