If there's one Democrat who could use some pressure on getting behind background checks, it's Senator Max Baucus (D. MT):


U.S. Sen. Max Baucus said Thursday he opposes a gun-control bill backed by fellow Democrats and is still assessing a separate bipartisan compromise on background checks.

However, Baucus voted against blocking debate over the bill in the Senate, saying the issue is significant enough that debate and potential amendments should be allowed. The measure is supported by most other Democrats.

“I am not in favor of the bill as it is coming before the floor of the Senate and I will vote against it,” Baucus told The Associated Press before senators voted down an attempt by conservatives to block the debate.

Baucus did not take a stance on a developing amendment by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Republican Sen. Patrick Toomey of Pennsylvania that offers less restrictive federal background checks compared to the Democratic bill hitting the floor Thursday. - Great Falls Tribune, 4/11/13

Here's a little background info on why Baucus might be squeamish about background checks:


The last time Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., sided with a Democratic president on major gun-control legislation, he nearly lost his job. In the 1996 race that followed, Republicans and gun-rights groups slammed Baucus as a Washington insider, out of step with his gun-owning constituents.

He won by just 5 percentage points, the closest margin of victory in his 35-year Senate career.

Nearly two decades later – and a year before he faces voters again -- Baucus now is the only Senate Democrat to boast an A+ rating from the powerful National Rifle Association. He opposes efforts to ban assault weapons, after first supporting the prohibition as part of a sweeping crime bill in 1994. And he has declined to say publicly how he will vote on other parts of legislation pushed by President Obama to curb gun violence, including a compromise struck Wednesday to expand background checks on gun purchases.

"I'm with Montana," Baucus said during an interview this week between meetings at the Capitol. "They're the people I work for. I'm a Montanan first." - USA Today, 4/11/13

Baucus right now is in the middle of a heated battle over tax reform with the Obama Administration and he might be now more than happy to distance himself from Obama on that issue:


WASHINGTON - JUNE 22: U.S. President Barack Obama (L) talks about health care costs as Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-CT) (R) and Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) look on in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House June 22, 2009 in Washington, DC. President Obama announced that drug companies have agreed to put $80 billion towards the cost of drugs for seniors and part of his proposed health care legislation.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Max Baucus;Christopher Dodd;Barack Obama
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus wrote an op-ed recently calling for revenue-neutral tax reform structured so as to maintain the progressivity of the current system. Detail-free tax reform plans are a dime a dozen so there'd be no real reason to care except that it was co-authored with Dave Camp of the House Ways and Means Committee. That sort of smacks of a bipartisan initiative that might actually happen. And the White House is none too pleased about it.

Senior administration officials say going down this road would be a mistake. Democrats are looking to raise net tax revenue from closing loopholes, and the White House thinks that a revenue neutral reform would undercut that entire process. - Slate, 4/10/13

The only issue Baucus should be distancing himself from Obama on is Social Security which he said back in 2011 doesn't contribute to the deficit:


“Social Security benefits are financed only through payroll taxes and the Trust Fund,” Baucus (left) said during a hearing held by his committee entitled “Perspectives on Deficit Reduction: Social Security.” Social Security, he continued, “is not responsible for the deficits we face in the general fund today. Therefore, I believe Social Security should not be part of our efforts to reduce those deficits.” - Advisor One, 5/10/11
So if Baucus might not listen to Obama on this issue.  Hopefully Jim Messina might still be able to reach Baucus on this issue:


Jim Messina, who is leading the effort by Organizing For Action to press for tougher gun laws, has a problem: his old boss.

Messina, when he worked with Baucus, was known to be able to speak for the senator. When President Barack Obama took office, Baucus recommended him for a high-level position. From that perch, Messina ran health care reform negotiations effectively out of Baucus' office. Baucus moved the legislation through his Finance Committee while picking up the vote of Republican Olympia Snowe of Maine, giving the bill the bipartisan sheen that Obama and Messina craved.

“Messina is the Baucus whisperer. If anyone can reach out to Baucus on a tough issue like this, while still being mindful of Montana politics, it is him,” said a Senate aide.

But that alliance hasn't been enough to move Baucus on guns. "I understand these are tough political votes ... but it's also the right thing to do, and I think there's a real political price to be paid for opposing something like a background check when over 90 percent of the country supports it," Messina said during an appearance on MSNBC Thursday. Obama has dubbed people who oppose the proposal "the 10 percent." - Huffington Post, 3/28/13

And if he won't listen to Messina, Baucus should listen to what the First Lady has to say


Mrs. Obama told a conference on youth violence that the new gun regulations her husband proposed in response to Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting deserve a vote in Congress. But she says reducing daily gun deaths in places like Chicago also will require an intensive effort by community leaders.

As part of a rare foray into a policy debate, Mrs. Obama highlighted the case of 15-year-old Hadiya Pendleton, shot to death in January while hanging out with friends at a park on the city's South Side, not far from the Obamas' home. Mrs. Obama attended Pendleton's funeral and said she was struck by how familiar the Pendleton family seemed to her own.

"Hadiya Pendleton was me and I was her," Mrs. Obama said. "But I got to grow up and go to Princeton and Harvard Law School and have a career and a family and the most blessed life I could ever imagine." - The Missoulan, 4/11/13

Then again, money might be the only thing to get Baucus on board with background checks:
With red state Democratic Senators remaining skittish about embracing Obama’s gun proposals, at least two top Democratic donors are stepping forward and vowing to withhold any and all future financial contributions from any Democrats who don’t support the centerpiece of Obama’s plan: Expanded background checks.

Kenneth Lerer, a New York businessman who is chairman of Buzzfeed.com, and David Bohnett, a technology entrepreneur and philanthopist based in Los Angeles, are both major financial supporters of Democratic candidates, having each given scores of large contributions over the years. They are both key players in the political fundraising world and wield influence among other donors and fundraisers.

Neither will give another dime to any Senate Democrat who does not support expanded background checks, I’m told — and both will suggest to other donors that they do the same. The move underscores the rising importance of gun control as an issue in Democratic politics — and the rising frustration in some Democratic circles with elected officials who continue to regard gun politics as a third rail, at a moment that presents a real opportunity to achieve serious reform, with a policy that enjoys near universal public support.

“At some point you have to draw a line in the sand — for me that time is now,” Lerer told me in an interview. “If candidates or officeholders can’t support something like comprehensive and enforceable background checks, then I wouldn’t think of giving them any money going forward.” - The Washington Post, 3/28/13

But most importantly, Baucus needs to listen to his own constituents.  I'm glad Baucus at least didn't vote against cloture on the debate for gun control but he needs to feel our pressure on background checks.  If you are a Montana resident, please tell Senator Baucus that you support universal background checks and that Montanans want reasonable gun control:

(202) 224-2651

And here are his local offices:

Billings: (406) 657-6790

Bozeman: (406) 586-6104

Butte: (406) 782-8700

Glendive: (406) 365-7002

Great Falls: (406) 761-1574

Helena: (406) 449-5480

Kalispell: (406) 756-1150

Missoula: (406) 329-3123

Originally posted to pdc on Thu Apr 11, 2013 at 11:59 AM PDT.

Also republished by Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA), Shut Down the NRA, and Montana Kossaks.

Your Email has been sent.