HELENA – U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, surrounded by family and friends at his son’s home in Helena, said Friday that coming home to Montana is “what my decision to not seek re-election is all about” – but that there’s still work to do in Washington, D.C.

“I’m not turning out to pasture,” said the 71-year-old Democratic senator, who announced Tuesday he won’t run for re-election in 2014. “Our country and our state face enormous challenges.”

Baucus, who’s been in Congress since 1975 and the Senate since 1979, said he’ll be working hard on issues like reforming the U.S. tax code and making sure the Affordable Care Act, which he helped write, is properly implemented.

“The tax code has not been brought up to date since 1986 and the world has changed dramatically,” he said. “We have to make our American companies more competitive.

“The goal should be to eliminate a lot of deductions and credits and exclusions, to free people up, so they use less time with lawyers and accountants to figure out what’s in the (code) and spend more time running their businesses.”

Baucus chairs the powerful Senate Finance Committee, which oversees the tax code. The panel already has been working toward a possible overhaul of the tax code, and Baucus has appointed an advisory council of Montanans as a sounding board for tax-reform ideas.

He said he hopes Congress can reach an agreement by the end of the year on a tax-reform package that simplifies the code and uses any additional revenue to lower rates for families and businesses and help reduce the federal deficit.

Baucus shocked the political world and Montana on Tuesday when he announced his pending retirement, although he said Friday that he’d been thinking and talking about it with his family and close advisers for several months.

He already had raised nearly $5 million for his re-election campaign and, so far, had faced no prominent challenger.

His departure makes Montana’s 2014 U.S. Senate race a wide-open contest and a likely national battleground in Democrats’ fight to retain majority control.

Democrats eyeing the race include former Gov. Brian Schweitzer, state Auditor Monica Lindeen, state Superintendent of Public Instruction Denise Juneau and Stephanie Schriock, a former campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont.

If Schweitzer gets into the race, however, he’d be a clear, early front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

When asked Friday about a successor or Schweitzer’s possible candidacy, Baucus said it’s not up to him to say who should next hold the seat.

“It’s up to the people, and I have high regard for, and trust in the people, that they’ll look (the candidates) over carefully,” he said. “And, it’s awfully early.”

Two Republicans already are running for the seat: former state Sen. Corey Stapleton of Billings and state Rep. Champ Edmunds of Missoula.

However, two prominent Republicans have said they’re thinking about entering the race: U.S. Rep. Steve Daines, who won election to his seat for the first time in November, and former U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, who lost the 2012 Senate race to Tester.

Baucus said Friday that he and his wife, Melodee Hanes, will be living in Bozeman once he leaves the Senate at the end of 2014.

Baucus was flanked by his wife and her son, Joey Kirk, and his own son, Zeno Baucus, and his wife, Stephanie. Baucus spoke to reporters in front of the home of his late mother, Jean Baucus, who died in 2011. Zeno Baucus and his wife recently moved into the home on Helena’s upper west side.

Baucus said he began thinking about retiring from the Senate as he traveled the state the past few months, seeing many places he wanted to spend more time enjoying.

He also said he owed a great debt of gratitude to the Montanans who’d supported and voted for him over the years: “To the people of Montana, my friends, thank you, thank you, thank you, from the bottom of my heart.”

Missoulian State Bureau reporter Mike Dennison can be reached at 1-800-525-4920 or by email at mike.dennison@lee.net.

(7) comments

Alan Johnson
Alan Johnson

I haven't always agreed with Max. But he's been a good Senator that did not rigidly follow any ideological mandate. He did use his influence in the Senate to help Montana, and if that meant some pragmatic compromising and trading of votes, well, that's the way the Senate used to work before the ideological nut-jobs sent it into paralysis. I know he will stay active in issues important to him. I hope he and his wife enjoy retirement in Bozeman.

hellgatenights
hellgatenights

Ummm...which wife? The current one he tried to illegally seat in a judgeship, or the last one he cheated on? Big heart Max........doing the people's work. But......no time to stick around and watch the mushroom cloud expand from Obamacare, BIG PHARMA needs MAD MAX..........and you all can count the days until the press leaks his office on "K" street, where all the other harlots work.

hellgatenights
hellgatenights

Baucus, who’s been in Congress since 1975 and the Senate since 1979, said he’ll be working hard on issues like reforming the U.S. tax code and making sure the Affordable Care Act, which he helped write, is properly implemented.

This comment would be hysterical were it the not for the painful reality of massive taxes coming. The programs are already falling months behind and not lost in the irony is the fact two powerful senators met last week to discuss EXEMPTIONS FOR LEGISLATIVE STAFFERS!

Seems just about everyone wants an EXEMPTION.....including me. I certainly don't want to may for all the law breaking mexicans living in my country, but the demorats do.....those are future dem votes.....bought with my tax monies.

OF COURSE MAD MAX IS BAILING OUT OF CONGRESS.......JUST AS ND SENATOR KENT CONRAD DID, AND HALF A DOZEN OTHER "SELL OUT" DEMRATS are. Max will be in a cozy office NEXT TO TOM DASHCHLE next year raking in millions from big pharma. Hmmmm...he is not so mad after all ...is he.

As for revisiting the tax code.......dream on Max......you had years to do this and you have no time now. There will be no support from the democrat held senate as they are begging for more monies (To buy more votes).

pl
pl

Is there anyone who REALLY believes what Baucus is putting out? He "misses" Montana???
Let's count the days until he either takes a big paying job in the health industry or as a lobbyist in DC!

montanamuralist
montanamuralist

No, the problem is that the Potter Party Republicans do not think enough with their heart. You right wing flame throwers get on here and constantly complain about the Affordable Care Act but have no solutions to help people who work hard, yes, work hard despite your myths and paranoia, and can not afford health insurance. That is not much in the way of heart. I will take having a heart any day over your immoral "head thinking" that ultimately leads to people dying from lack of health care because you right wing nuts want to support a system that over charges and under produces. Oh, sorry, you did fix the FAA thing in Congress yesterday. Nice heart there..if it touches your selfish selves and might delay you at the airport.. we can fix that immediately and meanwhile seniors lose Meals on Wheels and kids are booted in large numbers from Head Start. Nice priorities Mr. Potter.. No, good riddance Max, especially after the vote to refuse background checks ( he did that knowing he was not going to run again??? Really??) Daines would be a disgrace in the Senate just because of the way he kisses up to the Tea Party etc...I would consider Racicot if he were to run...he had a way of finding solutions that worked for most folks. Schweitzer will be my choice if he runs.

Pistol
Pistol

Name one person who died from lack of health care. This OBama Care sounds good, coverage for all people, but the problems are in the details. Insurance coverage is going up, and employers are looking at dropping benefits because it is cheaper to pay the "penalty" than pay the premiums for there employees. The IRS will flourish sorting through tax returns to see who isn't covered and pentaltizing them. Beware young people with entry jobs. You're correct health care issue is huge, OBama deserves credit for trying but this is bad law.

Kojack
Kojack

how shameful to get our country involved in what he calls a "trainwreck waiting to happen"- obamacare that is, then leave office and have someone else clean up or put up with the mess him and the other dems have shoved down our throat. Typical democrat thinks with his heart and not enough with his head.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.