Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus' long Senate career is probably about to end--the Senate Thursday is expected to confirm him as Ambassador to China.
The nomination was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week on a voice vote.
Baucus, D-Montana, is in his sixth Senate term, and is known as a consensus-builder who shepherded some of the most controversial legislation of recent times through the chamber. His committee is largely responsible for writing tax and trade law, and was instrumental in helping push through the 2009-10 health care law.
Baucus' anticipated departure means Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, will probably become chairman. Wyden now head the Energy and Natural Resources Committee; Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., is in line for that job.
The biggest intrigue involving a replacement could come back home. Montana is expected to be a major battleground in this fall's Senate election, and a Democrat is expected to be named as Baucus' interim successor--giving him a possible head start.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, paid tribute to Baucus on the Senate floor Thursday.
"Senator Baucus’s independent spirit have made him a powerful advocate for his home state and for the issues he cares deeply about. It has also made him a respected member of the Democratic caucus," Reid said.
"And his passion, as well as his decades of experience in Congress, make him an excellent choice to represent America’s interests in China, a growing power in a global economy. Senator Baucus has never shied away from the difficult issues of the day, and I have no doubt that his fearlessness will serve him well in his new role."