Mont. Senator Baucus To Retire After 36 Years In Congress

Montana Democrat Max Baucus announced he will not seek re-election in 2014, and instead retire from the U.S. Senate. The departure creates yet another challenge for Democrats, who hold a 55-45 majority in the chamber but who must defend a number of seats, some of them open, in states lost by President Obama last November.

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And one other piece of news from the Senate, Democrat Max Baucus is retiring. The powerful chair of the Senate Finance Committee has represented Montana since 1978. Baucus is the sixth Senate Democrat to announce he won't run for reelection in 2014. NPR congressional correspondent Tamara Keith has that story.

TAMARA KEITH, BYLINE: Max Baucus often bucks his own party - most recently just last week, when he voted against an amendment that would have expanded background checks for gun purchases. And before that, the Senate Democratic budget plan. As he rushed toward a bank of elevators in the basement of the Capitol earlier today, he was asked about his decision, how it felt not to be running for reelection.

SENATOR MAX BAUCUS: Great, in a word.

KEITH: Baucus is a Democrat from a state that President Obama lost by a large margin and the Senator was expected to face a tough race in 2014, just as his colleague, John Tester, did last year. In the end, Tester won and despite losing a veteran senator, Democrats hope they can hang onto Baucus' seat. One progressive group has already launched an online fundraising campaign to draft the state's popular former governor, Brian Schweitzer.

Republicans sense opportunity. The executive director of the National Republican Senatorial Committee said in a statement, quote, "The 2014 electoral map is in freefall for Democrats who were already facing a daunting challenge." As the elevator doors were about to close, Baucus turned around and smiled, rubbing his wife's shoulder.

BAUCUS: We've been going over this for months, this decision. We decided together.

KEITH: Baucus says he's now more energized than ever to pursue tax reform and he'll have more time to work on it since he won't be campaigning. Tamara Keith, NPR News, the Capitol.

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