Montana senator heads to Commerce panel

The newest member of Congress, Sen. John Walsh (D-Mont.), will serve on the Senate Commerce Committee, Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.) announced on Friday.

Walsh, a former lieutenant governor who was sworn in this week, will take up a seat on the panel with broad authority over technology, transportation and science issues.

Walsh is replacing former Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who last week was confirmed to be the next U.S. ambassador to China.

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“Senator Walsh is an experienced leader and patriot whose record of service is truly remarkable,” Rockefeller said in a statement announcing Walsh’s placement.  

“Senator Walsh joins our Committee at a critical time, and I expect that we will rely on his leadership abilities often this year as we tackle such issues as consumer protection and privacy in the digital age, the safe transportation of crude oil on our railways, and strengthening and expanding E-Rate, which is important to both of the states we represent.”

E-Rate is a federal program that aims to connect schools and libraries across the country to high-speed broadband Internet. This year, the Federal Communications Commission is planning to overhaul the program to connect virtually all students to the Internet.

Baucus’s departure from the Senate shook up membership at committees across the chamber. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) rose to succeed the Montanan as the Finance Committee chairman, leaving Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) atop the Energy and Natural Resources panel.

Walsh’s appointment to the Senate by Montana Gov. Steve Bullock (D) was seen as a boon for Democrats hoping to keep the seat in the election this November.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) reportedly tried to weigh in on the governor's selection ahead of time, but Bullock told him it was "none of your damn business." 

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