Montana DEMOCRAT Max BAUCUS was elected to the United States Senate in 1978, the same year I graduated from the eighth grade. In the ensuing 35 years, I have held about 10 different jobs — including working the counter at a popcorn shop. Max has held one. With his unexpected retirement announcement last week, that trove of institutional knowledge will be lost when he leaves the Senate next year. But he’s not going quietly. Max has had a busy month. And if he gets his way, he’ll be the center of attention until he walks out the door.
Three decades in the Senate is rare; 30 years on the Senate Finance Committee sets the standard. As chairman of that tax-writing panel, Baucus led the effort to craft and pass Obamacare through the Senate. So it made news last month when he called the health care law “a huge train wreck coming down.” His candor reflects the reality he sees on the ground. The federal government has just four months before an October deadline to design and implement online insurance exchanges to serve 20 million people across 34 states. It is woefully behind schedule.