WASHINGTON — Sen. Tim Johnson is expected to take the reins of the Senate Banking Committee next year following Chairman Chris Dodd’s decision not to run for re-election, according to sources.

A spokeswoman for Johnson confirmed that the South Dakota Democrat is "next in line for the position."

"Now that Chairman Dodd has made his future plans known, Sen. Johnson is ready to assume the role," she said. "He is more than up to the task and has the confidence of the Majority Leader and his colleagues on the committee."

Johnson is currently the No. 2 Democrat on the Banking Committee, but some observers have privately questioned whether Senate leaders would pass over him in favor of Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island. Johnson’s speech has been impaired since a December 2006 brain hemorrhage, but he remains mentally fit.

The financial services industry is the top employer in his home state of South Dakota, and he ran for reelection in 2008 in part based on his seniority on the Banking Committee.

Johnson has long been a champion of community bank issues, including helping to reform the deposit insurance system and leading the fight to keep Wal-Mart Stores Inc. from buying an industrial loan company in Utah –- both key issues to smaller institutions.

"Sen. Johnson has been very good on community banking issues so from the ICBA standpoint, he is one we would welcome," said Cam Fine, the president of the Independent Community Bankers of America.

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