Sen. Max Baucus, the veteran Finance Committee chairman who's had a hand in major tax and health care legislation for decades, is about to retire, according to reports.
The Montana Democrat, first elected in 1978, heads the powerful Senate committee charged with writing tax and health care legislation. He was instrumental in crafting the 2010 law overhauling the federal health care system, and was embarking on a new effort to revamp the tax code.
But Baucus, 71, faced re-election trouble in his increasingly conservative state. Last week, he joined four other Democrats in voting against a gun control measure, toughening background checks, pushed hard by President Barack Obama.
Baucus had been painted as too friendly to Washington lobbyists, and some liberals Tuesday hailed a retirement.
"Goodbye, Senator K Street. Max Baucus has a history of voting with corporate interests and not the interests of Montana voters -- taking millions from Wall Street, insurance companies, and lobbyists. Montana will finally have a chance to have a senator with its best interests at heart, and we hope Brian Schweitzer jumps into the race immediately," said Stephanie Taylor, Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder.
His departure could make it even tougher for Democrats to retain control of the Senate. Republicans need a net gain of six seats next year to win control.