Max Sieben Baucus (born December 11, 1941) is the senior United States Senator from Montana and a member of the Democratic Party. First elected to the Senate in 1978, he is the longest-serving Senator from Montana, and the fifth longest-serving U.S. Senator in office.
As the current chairman of the Senate Committee on Finance, Baucus has played an influential role in the debate over health care reform in the United States. He is also chairman of the Joint Committee on Taxation, and a member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry and Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, and is 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 (now defunct) 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.
Early life, education, and early career
Baucus was born Max Sieben Enke in Helena, Montana, the son of Jean Baucus (n e Sheriff), 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. 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 Montana in 1971 to serve as the executive director of the state's Constitutional Convention, also opening a law office in Missoula, Montana.
In November 1973, 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. He has served consecutively ever since.
Connections to Jack Abramoff
In December 2005, following the public corruption probe of lobbyist Jack Abramoff who was later convicted of fraud and corruption Baucus returned $18,892 in contributions that his office found to be connected to Abramoff. Included in the returned donations was an estimated $1,892 that was never reported for Baucus's use of Abramoff's sky box at a professional sports stadium and concert venue in downtown Washington in 2001.
Recommendation of U.S. Attorney
In March 2009, Baucus recommended his live-in girlfriend and recent state director, Melodee Hanes, for the vacant position of U.S. Attorney for Montana. Baucus's romantic relationship with Hanes was discovered in December 2009, after Hanes had withdrawn her name from consideration and Michael Cotter, another of Baucus's recommendations, was selected.
Baucus withdrew the Hanes recommendation the day after he was told that a newspaper was "poised to publish a story about Hanes s relationship with the senator and the fact that he had nominated her for the U.S. attorney job."
In December, Baucus told the Associated Press, "Mel would have been an excellent U.S. Attorney for Montana." Baucus added, "I, for one, did not want her relationship with me to disqualify her from applying for the position."
To bolster Baucus's statements, his office gave the AP a written statement that Hanes has "an extensive background as a prosecutor and extensive legal experience" along with a copy of her resume.
The resume, however, listed her only federal court experience as handling personal injury and employment discrimination cases from 1982 to 1986 as a partner in a private Iowa law firm. Hanes later received prosecutor's training in 1994 at the FBI's National Law Institute in Quantico, Va., the resume states.
Hanes attended Drake University Law School.
E. Clay Shaw]] (R-FL) (left to right) address the media after a meeting at the White House with President Bill Clinton.
Baucus's campaign materials claim that he is a moderate Democratic member of the Senate, occasionally breaking with his party on the issues of taxes, the environment, 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 has voted against giving voting representation to the District of Columbia.
Freedom of speech
He voted for an anti-flag burning constitutional amendment, of American flags, in 2006. He supported a bill to require online pornography sites to have a .XXX domain, together with Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) He supports the death penalty.
He opposes gay marriage, but voted against a proposed constitutional ban on it and has supported measures to curb job discrimination and hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
In 1999, he 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.
In August 2008, Baucus' panel met to mark up bills on Improved Adoption Incentives and Relative Guardianship Support Act, the Elder Justice Act and Safety, and the Abuse Prevention Act.
Baucus, foreground, meets with Secretary of Treasury nominee Timothy Geithner, left
Baucus has a 74 percent 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 that benefit 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".
Baucus's environmental record is mixed. He supports 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 has 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 100 percent rating, but only for the second session of the 110th Congress., but rated him at only 42 percent in December 2003.
He has 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, and has also joined the Democrats in the Senate in demanding the phased withdrawal of the Levin Amendment (no firm deadline). 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 (September 24, 1977 July 29, 2006) was killed in combat in Al Anbar Province. Phillip Baucus, 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 Bush's presidential 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 is 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 of pangasius fish from Vietnam, 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 said 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."
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 has been one of the largest beneficiaries in the Senate of campaign contributions from these industries. From 2003 to 2008, 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's 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, went on to open 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, declined 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. Baucus's new policy on not taking health care industry money reportedly still permits him to take money from lobbyists or corporate executives, who the Washington Post found continued to make donations after July 1, 2009.
A watchdog group found that in July 2009 Baucus took more money from the health care industry in violation of the self-defined terms of his moratorium, leading Baucus to return the money.
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 Democratic Senator Jon Tester in 2006 by a slim margin. Montana was the only state in the U.S. to switch a chamber of its legislature to Republican control in 2006. The legislative chamber had a one-seat Democratic majority that 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 2008 by a 73-27 margin.
Baucus has come 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 January 3, 2011, Baucus' office announced that he and Ms. Hanes would be getting married.
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 female winner and fellow Montana native Nikki Kimball at the 100-mile Western States Endurance Run, which he hopes to run in the future.
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