Senator Max Baucus, a Democrat from Montana, has ticked off many members of his party during his 35 years in office. Baucus co-wrote the Bush tax cuts in 2001, is an advocate for tax reform, and warned months ago that the Affordable Care Act, which he shepherded through the Senate, would be a “huge train wreck” if the government didn’t improve its outreach to consumers. Republicans are hoping a win in Montana can help them gain control of the Senate in 2014, and while Baucus, who is unpopular there, already said he wouldn’t run next year, Democrats are getting him out of their hair even more quickly. Senate aides revealed Wednesday that President Obama will nominate Baucus to be his ambassador to China.
The senator’s early departure may boost his party’s chances in Montana, as it will allow Governor Steve Bullock to appoint a fellow Democrat to fill his seat. The interim senator, probably Lieutenant Governor John Walsh, could then run in the red state as an incumbent this November.
As the Washington Post notes, the move also silences a “credible critic” of the Affordable Care Act. Baucus, who chairs the Finance Committee, has been pushing for congressional oversight of the health-care act’s implementation, but that’s less likely to happen after he’s gone.
Oh, and he knows a thing or two about China! Baucus led the successful effort to admit China to the World Trade Organization, pushed to establish normal trade relations, and has traveled there eight times as a senator. He shares many of the administration’s views on the nation, so presumably that’s the main reason he’s getting the job. But being on the administration’s list of Democrats they’d like to see less frequently probably made the decision easier.