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Senate OK’s Max Baucus as China envoy

Senator Max Baucus (center) was approved by his colleagues to become ambassador to China.

EPA

Senator Max Baucus (center) was approved by his colleagues to become ambassador to China.

WASHINGTON — The Senate easily confirmed longtime Senator Max Baucus on Thursday to become ambassador to China, handing the job to a lawmaker well-versed in US trade policy but with little expertise about military and other issues that have raised tensions with Beijing.

Senators gave final approval to the nomination of the moderate Montana Democrat by a vote of 96 to 0. Baucus, 72, accepted colleagues’ congratulations before and during the roll call and voted ‘‘present’’ for his own nomination.

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Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus has worked with Republicans during his 35 years in the Senate on issues ranging from taxes to health care reform — an independent streak that has vexed Democratic colleagues.

Baucus supported President George W. Bush’s sweeping 2001 tax cuts and his 2003 creation of Medicare prescription drug benefits, despite opposition by many Democrats. He also helped write President Obama’s 2010 health care law.

In 2001, Baucus championed China’s inclusion in the World Trade Organization, which has helped Beijing conduct business with other countries. He has sponsored legislation — not enacted — punishing China for undervaluing its currency and has criticized Beijing for blocking US imports of beef.

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