Max Baucus (D-Mont.)

U.S. Senator (since January 1979)

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Why He Matters

One of the most powerful Democrats in the Senate, Baucus is chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, a body with jurisdiction over tax, trade, Medicare and Social Security issues. With jurisdiction over health care, Baucus played an important role in helping Barack Obama pass his 2010 health-care overhaul.

Baucus started his career as a relatively low-profile congressman from conservative Montana but, in recent years, has shown a willingness to stray from the Democratic lines, at times sparking intense fights with the congressional Democratic leadership. He supported President Bush's trillion-dollar tax cut that mainly benefited the wealthy in 2001, fought to add a prescription-drug benefit to Medicare (in language pushed by the Bush administration) and sought billions in aid for drought-plagued farmers in his home state.

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At a Glance

  • Career History: U.S. Representative (1974 to 1978); Montana House of Representatives (1973 to 1974); Practicing attorney (1971 to 1974)
  • Birthday: Dec. 11, 1941
  • Hometown: Helena, Mont.
  • Alma Mater: Stanford University, B.A., 1964; Stanford University, LL.B., 1967
  • Spouse: Divorced
  • Religion: Protestant
  • Committees: Senate Finance Committee (chairman)
  • DC Office: 511 Hart Senate Office Building, 202-224-2651
  • State Office: Billings, 406-657-6790; Bozeman, 406-586-6104; Butte, 406-782-8700; Great Falls, 406-761-1574; Helena, 406-449-5480; Kalispell, 406-756-1150; Missoula, 406-329-3123
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Path to Power

Baucus was born Dec. 11, 1941, in Helena, Mont., the fifth-generation heir to a Montana ranching fortune. His great-grandfather, Henry Sieben, started the 125,000-acre Sieben ranch, featured in the film A River Runs Through It, and Sieben is in the Cowboy Hall of Fame.

Baucus received both an undergraduate economics degree and a law degree from Stanford University in 1964 and 1967, respectively. He then hitch-hiked around the world before going to work for the Civil Aeronautics Board in Washington. Baucus left that post to take a job for three years as a legal assistant at the Securities and Exchange Commission.

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The Issues

Baucus is an unreliable Democratic vote, and his party has often been disappointed at some of his fiscal proposals. He worked with close friend Grassley to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program, but he was also a major player in the passage of President Bush's $1 trillion tax cuts in 2001 and the 2003 Medicare prescription-drug benefit, which Baucus counts as one his most notable achievements.

2009-2010 Health-Care Reform

Because of the Finance Committee's role in the health-care discussion, Baucus was a key part of Obama's effort to reform the country's health-care system.

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The Network

Baucus counts Iowa's Charles E. Grassley, the ranking Republican on the Finance committee, as one of his closest friends. Both have shown a willingness to cross party lines at various points in their careers.

Though he didn't always see eye-to-eye with Tom Daschle when Daschle was the Democratic Senate leader (and often fought openly with the part leader), Baucus has always gotten along with Daschle's replacement, Harry M. Reid. Jim Messina, who is deputy White House chief of staff for President Obama, worked for Baucus for much of his career. Messina served as Baucus' chief of staff from 2005 to 2008.


Additional Resources

  1. Bremner, Faith, "Tester, Baucus split on rescue plan vote," Great Falls Tribune (Montana), Oct. 2, 2008
  2. Shepardson, David, "Reid: Auto bailout deal close, but still need GOP support," The Detroit News (Michigan), Dec. 12, 2008
  3. "White House Fires Back at Enzi," Bloomberg News, September 1, 2009
  4. Pierce, Emily, "Democrats plot reform strategy," Roll Call, Jan. 10, 2005
  5. The Almanac of American Politics, 2008 edition
  6. McCormack, Richard, "Rise of Asia means U.S. has no time to balk, says Baucus," Manufacturing & Technology News, Feb. 6, 2006
  7. Murray, Shailagh and Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post, "House Passes Health-Care Reform Bill without Republican Votes," March 22, 2010
  8. "Baucus to hold Monday hearing on new IG for TARP," National Journal's CongressDaily, Nov. 14, 2008
  9. Congressional Budget Office, letter to Chairman Max Baucus, October 7, 2009
  10. The Almanac of American Politics, 2008 edition, and Max Baucus' official Web site
  11. Florio, Gwen, "Baucus says troops need to come home from Iraq 'as soon as possible,'" Great Falls Tribune (Montana), Feb. 22, 2007
  12. Bresnahan, John and Budoff Brown, Carrie, "Is a top Dem stirring Daschle trouble?" Politico.com, Feb. 2, 2009
  13. Rubin, Richard, "Senators want a say on tax plans," Congressional Quarterly Today, Jan. 7, 2009
  14. Michaels, Dave, "Democratic senators want more support for energy," McClatchy-Tribune Business News via The Dallas Morning News (Texas), Jan. 9, 2009
  15. Klein, Ezra, "The Sleeper of the Senate," The American Prospect, Nov. 6, 2008
  16. Branigan, William and Lori Montgomery, The Washington Post, "Baucus Introduces $856 Billion Health-Care Bill," September 16, 2009
  17. "GOP Criticizes Democrats on Health Care; Compromise Hope Fades," The Associated Press, August 29, 2009
  18. Klein, Ezra, "The Sleeper of the Senate," The American Prospect, Nov. 6, 2008
  19. CQ's Politics in America 2008
  20. Murray, Shailagh, "Obama Invites Gang of Six to the White House," The Washington Post, August 5, 2009
  21. Center for Responsive Politics
  22. Baucus, Max, "Call to Action: Health Reform 2009," U.S. Senate Finance Committee, November 12, 2008
  23. Anez, Bob, "Baucus: Former chief of staff accusations won't affect re-election," The Associated Press, Feb. 15, 2002
  24. "State by state election results: Montana," Facts on File World News Digest, Nov. 6, 2008
  25. Zuckman, Jill, "Senate panel approves tax bill," Chicago Tribune, May 16, 2001