Sen. Whitehouse gets coveted health panel slot

Freshman Sen. Sheldon WhitehouseSheldon WhitehouseOvernight Energy: SEC begins probing Exxon Senate Dems unveil new public option push for ObamaCare Emails: Powell talked Clinton health concerns with Dem mega-donor MORE (D-R.I.) has landed himself a front-row seat for the debate on health reform, something he's staked out as one of his big priorities.

The Senate Democratic leadership has assigned Whitehouse to the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which, along with the Finance Committee, has the lead role with drafting legislation to reform the U.S. healthcare system, The Providence Journal reports.

"I'm honored that [Senate Majority] Leader [Harry] Reid [D-Nev.] gave me this opportunity to serve temporarily on the HELP Committee. Our health care system is in disrepair -- its failures touch millions of American families, every day -- and fixing it is among our biggest and most urgent challenges. I'm ready to roll up my sleeves and do all I can to help Chairman Kennedy and my colleagues to move this vital effort forward," Whitehouse said in a statement to the Journal.

Whitehouse already had his toe in the health reform waters from his perch on the Budget Committee.

- Jeffrey Young