Reid disappointed by Baucus’s retirement

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“Of course we’re all disappointed,” said Reid, who mentioned Baucus received two standing ovations at the Senate Democratic lunch on Tuesday. “I’m sorry to have Max tell me this morning that he wasn’t going to run again.”

Reid and Baucus, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, have clashed over policy decisions in recent weeks.

Baucus disagreed with Reid’s decision to include in the Senate Democratic budget resolution special instructions to the Finance Committee to raise nearly $1 trillion in new tax revenues.

Baucus has told Republicans that he wants tax reform to be bipartisan, and he voted against the Democratic budget plan, as did every Senate Republican.

Baucus also opposes the Marketplace Fairness Act, a bill to enforce the collection of sales taxes for Internet transactions, which Reid has brought straight to the Senate floor, circumventing the Finance Committee.

Reid on Tuesday defended his decision to bring the bill to the floor. He said 50 Democratic senators support it as well as a majority of Republicans.

“It doesn’t cost the states a penny. Nothing. Zero. So it’s not an issue that’s meaningful,” he said. “Over here, there was a hearing held by the Commerce Committee. There’s no blue slip problem, so I think we’re in good shape on this bill.”

Sen. Chuck Grassley (Iowa), who, as the former Republican chairman of the Finance Committee, has a long history of working together with Baucus, said Baucus’s role as committee chairman has been minimized under Reid’s leadership.

“Over the long term, the Senate is moving away from the spirit of Mike Mansfield, where every senator had a chance to offer amendments. There was a great deal of comity; there was a great deal of bipartisanship, respect for each other. That’s all been neutered in the last three or four years, and that turns off a lot of people,” said Grassley.

Grassley said Mansfield, a Democratic senator from Montana who served as Senate majority leader, would “probably, just like me, not like the present environment of the Senate, where we have cloture votes every other day, and we have filling the tree every other day.” 

Reid said he did not think Baucus’s decision was affected by what Republicans claim is the diminished role of the Finance Committee, or the decisions to bring Marketplace Fairness to the floor and include the reconciliation language affecting tax reform in the budget.

“I doubt it,” he said.