WASHINGTON - Montana Sen. Max Baucus is attempting to reach a quick compromise with Republicans on tax cuts even as many in his own party want to slow things down.
Baucus, the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, is up for re-election next year and has been considered vulnerable by the GOP because of his state's increasingly Republican leanings. Bush captured the state in the November election with a wide margin.
Baucus was one of only five Democrats to vote Thursday in support of a budget that lays the groundwork for an 11-year, $1.35 trillion tax cut supported by Bush.
"The president is the president. He's setting the tone with his agenda," Baucus said. "I want to work on a bipartisan basis. I felt we do need a tax cut. It's also popular at home. I represent Montana."
Some Democrats are grumbling that Baucus is too eager to cut a deal with Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, the Finance Committee chairman. Grassley acknowledges he has focused on four centrist Democratic members of the panel - Sens. Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, John Breaux of Louisiana, Robert Torricelli of New Jersey and Baucus - in trying to reach a compromise.
Asked Thursday if Baucus is letting his own political situation dictate negotiations on the tax bill, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle said he is "completely satisfied" that the Montana Democrat is working with other senators of his party on the issue.
"I think Senator Baucus is doing as good a job under these circumstances as he can," said Daschle, D-S.D.
Grassley was hoping to release a draft tax cut bill with Baucus on Friday, with the committee taking up the legislation as early as next Tuesday. Baucus and Grassley have been meeting regularly since January trying to agree on a bill.
"Senator Baucus and Senator Grassley have a good working relationship," said Sen. Ben Nelson of Nebraska, another Democrat from a Republican-leaning state. That relationship, he added, "will involve some give and take."