Senator Baucus to be named ambassador to China
Updated: 2013-12-19 10:03
US Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, smiles before the Committee passed the Democratic healthcare reform bill on Capitol Hill in Washington in this October 13, 2009 file photo.[Photo/Agencies]
WASHINGTON - US Senator Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat, will be nominated by President Barack Obama to be the next ambassador to Beijing, according to Senate aides.
Baucus, who announced earlier this year his intention to retire from the Senate at the end of next year, currently chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which oversees tax and trade policy. He was first elected to the Senate in 1978.
Obama's choice of the 72-year-old Baucus to be ambassador to China must be confirmed by the Senate. The chamber is not expected to consider the nomination until early next year.
A Democratic official, who asked not to be identified, noted that Baucus led the successful US effort in the 1990s to admit China into the World Trade Organization in 2001 and to begin normal bilateral trade relations with the emerging economy.
A senior Senate aide said that under Montana law, Democratic Governor Steve Bullock will appoint a replacement for Baucus if he becomes ambassador to China.
Democrats currently hold 53 Senate seats and two independents regularly vote with them. There are 45 Republicans in the Senate and if Bullock appoints a Democratic replacement, it would not change the balance of power in the chamber.
Spokesmen for Bullock, who is expected to appoint a Democrat, were not available for comment.
Details were not yet available on whether the replacement would serve through 2014. Baucus' Senate seat was already up for election in November 2014.
Whoever is picked by Bullock would have an advantage going into next year's election, assuming that person wanted to seek a full term in the Senate. Republicans have set their sights on the Montana seat in their drive to win majority control of the Senate in the 2014 elections.
As chairman of the Finance Committee, Baucus was a major force in the writing of Obama's landmark healthcare reform law that was enacted in 2010.
In recent years, Baucus also has been working on comprehensive reform of the outdated US tax code. But with Congress so divided over how to revamp the complicated law, odds of passing such major legislation in the 2014 election year were seen as slim.
Assuming Baucus leaves the Senate early next year to move to Beijing, Democratic Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon could become the next chairman of the Finance Committee.