WASHINGTON — For Sen. Chris Dodd, the death of Sen. Edward Kennedy not only means losing his closest friend in the Senate, it also creates a dilemma for the Connecticut Democrat’s political future and raises fresh questions about the fate of regulatory reform.

After months of standing in to lead the health-care debate on behalf of his colleague, Sen. Dodd must decide whether to stay as chairman of the Senate Banking Committee or assume Kennedy’s mantle as chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

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