Maxwell Sieben "Max" Baucus (born December 11, 1941) is an American politician and diplomat who was a United States Senator from Montana from 1978 to 2014. Having served there for nearly 36 years, Baucus is the longest-serving Senator in Montana history. A member of the Democratic Party, Baucus was the United States Ambassador to China from 2014 to 2017.
As the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Baucus played an influential role in the debate over health care reform in the United States. He was also chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and was chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure. Before his election to the Senate, Baucus was a member of the United States House of Representatives from 1975 to 1978, representing Montana's 1st congressional district. He previously served in the Montana House of Representatives from 1973 to 1974.
On August 9, 2011, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid appointed Baucus to the United States Congress Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. On April 23, 2013, Baucus announced he would retire from the U.S. Senate at the end of his term in 2015.
On December 18, 2013, Politico reported that the White House had selected Baucus to be the United States Ambassador to China. On February 6, 2014, Baucus was confirmed by a vote of 96-0 with three Republicans absent and Baucus himself voting "Present". He resigned from his Senate seat on the same day.
Early life, education, and early career
Max Baucus was born Maxwell Sieben Enke on December 11, 1941 in Helena, Montana, the son of Jean Baucus (née Sheriff), who was from a wealthy ranching family, and Stephen Enke, Ph.D., a demographer and economist. Baucus lived in California until he was two, when his mother left his father and returned to Helena. She later married John J. Baucus. His father, born in British Columbia, Canada, was of German and Scottish descent, and his mother had English and German ancestry. Baucus graduated from Helena High School in 1959.
After attending local public schools in his hometown of Helena, he attended Carleton College in Minnesota for a year before transferring to Stanford University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics in 1964, and was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity. After graduating, he attended Stanford Law School and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 1967. After finishing law school, Baucus spent three years as a lawyer at the Securities and Exchange Commission in Washington, D.C. He moved back to his native Montana in 1971 to serve as the executive director of the state's Constitutional Convention, opening a law office in Missoula, Montana. In November 1972, Baucus was elected to the Montana House of Representatives as a state representative from Missoula. In November 1974 he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, and was re-elected in 1976.
U.S. Senate tenure
Baucus was elected to the U.S. Senate on November 7, 1978 for the term beginning January 3, 1979, but was subsequently appointed to the seat by Montana's Democratic Governor Thomas Lee Judge on December 15, 1978 to fill the brief vacancy created by Senator Paul G. Hatfield's resignation. On April 23, 2013, a Democratic official confirmed that Baucus would not seek a seventh term.
- Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry
- Subcommittee on Domestic and Foreign Marketing, Inspection, and Plant and Animal Health
- Subcommittee on Production, Income Protection and Price Support
- Subcommittee on Hunger, Nutrition and Family Farms
- Committee on Finance (Chairman)
- As Chairman of the full committee, Baucus may serve as an ex officio member of all subcommittees of which he is not already a full member.
- Subcommittee on Taxation, IRS Oversight, and Long-term Growth
- Subcommittee on Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Growth
- Committee on Environment and Public Works
- Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety
- Subcommittee on Superfund, Toxics and Environmental Health
- Subcommittee on Transportation and Infrastructure (Chairman)
- Joint Committee on Taxation (Chairman)
- Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction
- Killough, Ashley (April 23, 2013). "Sen. Baucus not seeking a seventh term". CNN.com. Retrieved April 23, 2013.
Baucus was a moderate Democratic member of the Senate, frequently breaking with his party on the issues of taxes, the environment, health care, and gun control. The web site That's My Congress gives him a 23 percent rating on progressive issues it tracks. NARAL Pro-Choice America's political action committee endorsed Baucus during his 2008 election campaign.
The American Civil Liberties Union rated Baucus at 60 percent in December 2002, indicating a mixed civil rights voting record.
Voting rights for Washington, D.C.
Baucus voted against giving voting representation to the District of Columbia.
In 1996, Baucus voted in favor of the Defense of Marriage Act. In June 2012, he spoke out in support for same-sex marriage. Prior to that, he voted against a proposed constitutional ban in 2004 and 2006. He has supported measures to curb job discrimination and hate crimes based on sexual orientation. He voted in favor of the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010.
Tobacco tax/Roll your own cigarette outlawing
In 2012, after receiving donations from Altria (the parent company of Philip Morris USA), Baucus successfully pushed through Congress a transportation bill that outlawed "roll your own cigarette" stores by making it illegal for them to operate the cigarette rolling machines.
In 1994, Baucus cast a pivotal vote in favor of Senator Dianne Feinstein's (D-CA) "Assault Weapons" Ban. In 2013, Baucus was one of four Democrats to vote against the Manchin-Toomey Amendment to expand background checks for potential gun buyers.
In 1999, Baucus was the only Democrat to vote against an amendment by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) that sought to "regulate the sale of firearms at gun shows". Baucus can be frequently found hunting and fishing on public lands around Montana.
Baucus has a 74% pro-business voting record as rated by the United States Chamber of Commerce. He twice voted to make filing bankruptcy more difficult for debtors, once in July 2001 to restrict rules on personal bankruptcy, and a second time in March 2005 to include means-testing and restrictions for bankruptcy filers. He has frequently visited places of employment within the state and has personally participated in activities that he calls "Work Days." He has also hosted economic development conferences.
In March 2005, Baucus voted against repealing tax subsidies benefiting companies that outsource U.S. jobs offshore. On January 4, 2007, he wrote an editorial in the Wall Street Journal calling on Democrats to renew President George W. Bush's fast-track authority for international trade deals. In response, the Montana State Senate passed a resolution, 44-6, "that the U.S. Congress be urged to create a replacement for the outdated fast track system."
On October 27, 2009, he introduced the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of 2009 to Congress together with Representative Charles Rangel.
Baucus's environmental record in Congress was mixed. He supported Democratic leadership in voting against oil and gas subsidies and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge drilling, as well as by voting in favor of national standards to reduce oil consumption and spur the use of hydrogen-powered cars. But he voted against the corporate average fuel economy standards (CAFE) and on increasing federal funds for solar and wind power. He was a leader in the massive Montana Legacy Project conservation project. The League of Conservation Voters (LCV) gave Baucus a 79% rating for 2012; Baucus' lifetime LCV rating is 68%.
As a senator, Baucus opposed the United States embargo against Cuba and travel restrictions.
Baucus voted for the Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. He voted with a majority of Democrats against Senator John Kerry's amendment stipulating a firm deadline for withdrawal of American combat personnel from Iraq.
On July 29, 2006, Baucus's nephew Marine Cpl. Phillip E. Baucus was killed in combat in Al Anbar Province. Phillip, a 28-year-old resident of Wolf Creek, Montana, had been a member of the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force.
On January 10, 2007, the day of President Bush's address on his plan to increase troop levels in Iraq, Baucus spoke against the increases and called for a phased withdrawal of U.S. troops.
Baucus was one of the Senate's largest career recipients of pro-Israel Political Action Committee (PAC) contributions, receiving $550,589 since 1989.
On July 14, 2009, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial on Baucus's attitude over Vietnam’s "tra" and "basa" pangasius, saying there was no reason for America to launch a trade war with Vietnam over fish. "He's dead right about a trade issue now percolating in Washington," said the newspaper. The article, entitled "Max Baucus's Fish Sense - Protectionism often hurts the protectionist," outlined this controversial topic in Washington and underlined the possibility that the U.S. Department of Agriculture could effectively ban imports from Vietnam of pangasius fish, which are similar to U.S.-produced catfish.
The ostensible reason for the move would be food safety and the USDA is considering whether Vietnamese fish should be subject to a stricter safety inspection regime. But the article noted that there have been no reported cases of Vietnamese fish making American consumers sick and the proposed inspections would be onerous. It quoted Baucus as telling Congress Daily, "If we expect other countries to follow the rules and drop these restrictions, it is critical that we play by the rules and do not block imports for arbitrary or unscientific reasons."
Baucus went on a trade mission in Japan, inspecting the Tesla Motors facility in Tokyo, saying "Tesla is a great example of how exports and trade help the U.S. economy and create good-paying jobs at home in America. Our trade ties overseas help Tesla sell a world-class product that's manufactured in the U.S. by top-notch American workers," Baucus said. "There are millions of consumers in Japan and across the Pacific ready to buy more American-made goods, and we can continue to open those markets and boost U.S. exports with an aggressive trade agenda."
Health care reform
Senate finance committee
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus called the first Senate meeting of interested parties before the committee to discuss health care reform, including representatives from pharmaceutical groups, insurance companies, and HMOs and hospital management companies. The meeting was controversial because it did not include representatives from groups calling for single-payer health care.
Opposition to single payer health care
Advocate groups attended a Senate Finance Committee meeting in May 2009 to protest their exclusion as well as statements by Baucus that "single payer was not an option on the table." Baucus later had eight protesters removed by police who arrested them for disrupting the hearing. Many of the single-payer advocates claimed it was a "pay to play" event. A representative of the Business Roundtable, which includes 35 memberships of health maintenance organizations, health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, admitted that other countries, with lower health costs, and higher quality of care, such as those with single-payer systems, have a competitive advantage over the United States with its private system.
At the next meeting on health care reform of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus had five more doctors and nurses removed and arrested. Baucus admitted a few weeks later in June 2009 that it was a mistake to rule out a single payer plan because doing so alienated a large, vocal constituency and left President Barack Obama’s proposal of a public health plan to compete with private insurers as the most liberal position.
Baucus has used the term "uniquely American solution" to describe the end point of current health reform and has said that he believes America is not ready yet for any form of single payer health care. This is the same term the insurance trade association, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), is using. AHIP has launched the Campaign for an American Solution, which argues for the use of private health insurance instead of a government backed program. Critics have said that Medicare is already effectively a single-payer system.
Conflict of interest charges
Baucus has been criticized for his ties to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and was one of the largest beneficiaries in the Senate of campaign contributions from these industries. From 2003-08, Baucus received $3,973,485 from the health sector, including $852,813 from pharmaceutical companies, $851,141 from health professionals, $784,185 from the insurance industry and $465,750 from HMOs/health services, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. A 2006 study by Public Citizen found that between 1999 and 2005 Baucus, along with former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, took in the most special-interest money of any senator.
Only three senators have more former staffers working as lobbyists on K Street, at least two dozen in Baucus' case. Several of Baucus's ex-staffers, including former chief of staff David Castagnetti, are now working for the pharmaceutical and health insurance industries. Castagnetti co-founded the lobbying firm of Mehlman Vogel Castagnetti, which represents America’s Health Insurance Plans Inc, the national trade group of health insurance companies, the Medicare Cost Contractors Alliance, as well as Amgen, AstraZeneca PLC and Merck & Co. Another former chief of staff, Jeff Forbes, opened his own lobbying shop and to represent the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Advanced Medical Technology Association, among other groups.
A statistical analysis of the impact of political contributions on individual senators' support for the public insurance option conducted by Nate Silver has suggested that Baucus was an unlikely supporter of the public option in the first place. Based on Baucus's political ideology and the per capita health care spending in Montana, Silver's model projects that there would be only a 30.6% probability of Baucus supporting a public insurance option even if he had received no relevant campaign contributions. Silver calculates that the impact on Baucus of the significant campaign contributions that he has received from the health care industry further reduces the probability of his supporting a public insurance option from 30.6% to 0.6%.
In response to the questions raised by the large amount of funding he took from the health care industry, Baucus declared a moratorium as of July 1, 2009 on taking more special interest money from health care political action committees. Baucus, however, refused to return as part of his moratorium any of the millions of dollars he has received from health care industry interests before July 1, 2009, or to rule out a resumption of taking the same or greater health care industry contributions in the future. His policy on not taking health care industry money reportedly still allowed him to accept money from lobbyists or corporate executives, who, according to The Washington Post, continued to make donations after July 1, 2009. A watchdog group found that in July 2009 Baucus accepted additional money from the health care industry in violation of his own self-defined moratorium terms, reportedly leading Baucus to return those monies.
Baucus voted for the Bush tax cuts in 2001. He has usually voted against repealing portions of that bill and against repealing more recent tax cut bills that benefit upper income taxpayers. In 2008, he voted in favor of permanently repealing the estate tax.
Ability to seek legal redress
He was one of 26 senators to vote against the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005.
The 2002 Montana elections got national attention when Baucus's opponent, state senator Mike Taylor, accused Baucus of having implied that Taylor was gay in a campaign ad. The ad was paid for by the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, not by the Baucus campaign. The ad, which alleged that Taylor had embezzled funds from the cosmetology school he once owned, showed footage from the early 1980s of Taylor massaging another man's face while wearing a tight suit with an open shirt. Taylor dropped out of the race and Baucus won with 63 percent of the vote.
Baucus sought re-election in 2008 in Montana, a state that has seen political change starting in 2004 when it elected Democratic Governor Brian Schweitzer and then in 2006 Democratic Senator Jon Tester by a slim margin. Montana was the only state in the U.S. to turn over a chamber of its legislature to Republican control in 2006. The legislative chamber had a one-seat Democratic majority that then became a one-seat Republican majority.
Baucus raised a record amount of money for his 2008 re-election bid, 91 percent of which came from individuals living outside of Montana. Similarly, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, Baucus's 2008 campaign raised $11.6 million, only 13 percent of which came from Montana donors; the rest included millions from health care and other industries overseen by Finance and Baucus's other committees. The overwhelming ratio of special interest and out-of-state dollars to donations from Montana donors have raised questions:
So as Baucus and other lawmakers attempt to craft a bill that can smash through a virtual gridlock of interests, the awkward question lingers: To whom are they more attentive, their voting constituencies back home or the dollar constituencies who are at the Capitol every day?
As a result of Baucus's significant fund-raising advantage, in the week that he announced his intention to run for re-election, he opened eight state offices—one more than he had official offices in the state. Baucus also announced that he had hired 35 full-time campaign staff members. Baucus won re-election in a landslide victory, with 73% of the vote, carrying every county in the state.
United States Ambassador to China
On December 26, 2013 President Obama announced his intent to nominate Baucus to the post of Ambassador to China The President submitted Baucus's nomination to the Senate on January 7, 2014.
A hearing on his nomination was held by the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations on January 28, 2014. His nomination was later reported to the full United States Senate on February 4, 2014 and a vote for confirmation would later be considered. He was later confirmed by the full Senate on February 6, 2014 by a vote of 96–0 and Baucus himself voting "Present".
Max Baucus was later sworn in by Vice President Joe Biden on February 21, 2014; with his swearing ending the ambassadorship of Gary Locke. Baucus will end his ambassadorship in January 2017, as President-elect Donald Trump nominated Governor Terry Branstad from Iowa as the next Ambassador to China.
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Baucus came under fire from critics calling him a beltway insider who no longer really lives in Montana and only occasionally comes to visit. Until 1991, Baucus owned a house in Missoula, where he practiced law for three years before running for Congress in 1974. He didn't own a home again in Montana until February 2002, when he bought half of his mother's house from the Sieben Ranch Company, the ranch started by Baucus's great-grandfather in 1897. The ranch company, and Baucus's mother, still own the other half of the house. Baucus lives in Washington, D.C.'s Capitol Hill district. As of November 2007, the Missoulian newspaper reported he owned no other property in Montana.
In April 2009, The Associated Press reported that Baucus and his second wife, the former Wanda Minge, are divorcing after 25 years of marriage and have "parted ways amicably and with mutual respect.". Starting in 2008, Senator Baucus has been romantically linked with his state office director, Melodee Hanes, whom he later nominated to the vacant position of U.S. Attorney in Montana. Hanes then withdrew her nomination before the conflict of interest was discovered, because according to Baucus they wanted to be together in Washington, D.C. Both the Senator and Ms. Hanes had ended their marriages within the previous year. Senator Baucus claims he was separated from his wife before he began seeing Ms. Hanes.
On July 2, 2011, Baucus married Ms. Hanes at the Sieben Ranch in Montana.
Baucus has one son, Zeno, by his first wife, Ann Geracimos. Baucus and Geracimos divorced in 1982.
Baucus has completed a 50-mile ultramarathon and has crewed for winner and fellow Montana native Nikki Kimball at the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run, which he hopes to run in the future.