Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Max Baucus

Max Baucus announced today that he's retiring after this Congress.

He's been, I'd say, a good Senator -- with the faults of good Senators. Senate Finance Committee Chairs, at least the modern ones, have tended to be deal-makers who cared more about getting things done than any particular substantive concerns, with Bob Dole being maybe the perfect example, along with Lloyd Bentsen and Baucus.

Baucus infuriated liberals, mostly because, well, he wasn't one. They were wrong, in my view, in their attacks on him for attempting to get Republicans (or at least Olympia Snowe) on board for the ACA in 2009; while it was ultimately unsuccessful, it was hardly certain that it would be, and the delay was more myth than reality.

On the other hand, Baucus's choice to work with Republicans in passing massive tax cuts in 2001 was a real example of choosing getting things done over substance. That's the one that liberals should hold against him.

Dealmakers are rarely beloved, other than by their constituents who enjoy the benefits, and perhaps by Congressional scholars (and hangers-on). And liberals are particularly upset with Baucus right now after his vote against Manchin-Toomey last week, a vote which evidently wasn't about electoral incentives unless he had a very late change of heart about running. But my general feeling is that the ACA should count on the plus side for Baucus, for liberals that is.

All that said, if Democrats do hold the Senate, the man in line to be the next chair of Finance is the mainstream liberal that Baucus isn't. Ezra Klein has a good profile up on Ron Wyden -- who is, as he says, more idiosyncratic than liberals probably want, but his instincts surely are basically liberal. Wyden isn't really in the Dole tradition; if you're looking for a comp, perhaps try Daniel Patrick Moynihan, minus the pretension, I suppose.

At any rate, the high turnover in the Senate continues. Are there more shoes still to drop? It's still early in the cycle.


  1. The fact that his staff is firmly entrenched in lobbying efforts shows how truly corruptible his politics were. He may have been a deal maker, but not for his constituents. Wonder what his next job will be?

  2. Brian Schweitzer is 14 years younger than Baucus, if he runs. Not exactly a youngster, but still. Schweitzer seems more liberal than Baucus, but interestingly and unsurprisingly, not on guns.

  3. I agree that Schweitzer seems a very probable successor to Baucus. Given Montana's very high rate of gun ownership, Schweitzer's opposition to gun control fits state opinion perfectly. But given that Schweitzer is widely seen as a VP possibility, I would expect him to amass a "surprisingly" liberal record in 2015-16, at least one that appeases most Democratic-leaning interest groups.

  4. Wyden is pretty pretentious by Oregon standards. I think of him as a version of Joe Lieberman who opposed the Iraq war.

  5. Hey, speaking of the ACA, did y'all see this article from Politico on alleged Congressional scheming to keep their staffers out of the exchanges?

    I couldn't care less about the political scheming. I'm worried about the alleged reasoning. The exchanges, it seems, would be too damn expensive for a low-level staffer without the backstop of the federal government, prompting low-level staffers to leave for private industry, which will retain (we guess?) better backstops....


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