Max Baucus (D-Montana) to retire rather than seek re-election in 2014

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Don't let the door hit ya Max. And GO Schweitzer!

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is retiring rather than seek re-election in 2014, according to two senior Democratic strategists familiar with his plans.

First elected in 1978, Baucus has been the top Democrat on the powerful tax-writing committee for more than a dozen years. At times infuriating his Democratic colleagues, he worked with Republicans to co-write the Bush-era tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug plan, but he also served as the lead defender against George W. Bush’s 2005 effort to partially privatize Social Security and played a critical role in writing President Obama’s national health-care plan.

From conservative-leaning Montana, Baucus has voted against Democratic initiatives on some social issues, most recently last week’s effort to create an expanded background check system for gun purchases.

Despite Obama’s double-digit defeat in Montana, Democrats intend to vigorously defend the seat. The leading Democratic candidate is former governor Schweitzer, a popular figure who at times has feuded with Baucus over parochial political issues in the Big Sky state.

The Baucus retirement also could have dramatic policy ramifications. No longer bounded by his own 2014 re-election, Baucus can now push for comprehensive tax reform without concerns about the political ramifications, his allies say.

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