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Ron Wyden at a September 2012 hearing of the Senate Energy Committee
Ron Wyden would mark a major change as Senate Finance Committee chair.
When Max Baucus leaves the Senate 20 months from now, he will also surrender the gavel as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. If Democrats still control the Senate in 2015, that chairmanship likely will be Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon's to refuse. He's third in seniority on the committee, behind Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, who is retiring. The fourth guy, Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, is also in line for the chairmanship of the Senate Banking Committee, a post he is widely seen as favoring. The 63-year-old, three-term Oregon senator is currently chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and would have to choose between the two.

Baucus asked a Montana newspaper editorial board 40 years ago which party he should choose to run on to gain a state legislative seat, and he has ever since often behaved like a Republican, a thorn in the party's side and also a member with deep clout. Switching to a Democrat with a far more liberal voting record on a broad array of matters would be a vast improvement at the top of the Senate's two or three most powerful committees.

For one thing, Wyden hasn't used his office as a training ground and springboard for would-be tax lobbyists on his staff as Baucus has. Wyden has also given at least soft support for filibuster reform. Baucus has worked diligently behind the scenes to ensure that nothing substantial occurs on that front.

Outside the tax and finance realm, Wyden has been counterposed to Baucus on issue after issue. The Oregonian was one of 23 senators to vote against authorization to use military force against Iraq in 2002. He voted for redeployment of U.S. troops from Iraq to Afghanistan in 2007, a move that would have seen tens of thousands of troops redeployed back to the States. He also opposed the two-part troop surge that President Obama ordered into Afghanistan in 2009. Baucus voted for the AUMF. He opposed redeployment. He supported the surge.

Wyden supported the Manchin-Toomey background-check compromise and the Feinstein assault weapons ban last week. Baucus voted against both.

Wyden voted against the gay-hating Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Baucus voted for it and didn't come out in favor of marriage equality until June last year.

The Oregon senator has been a rare stand-out on civil liberties. He was one of a small number of senators who opposed the reauthorization of the Patriot Act in 2006 and again in 2011. He has stood against cyber-security bills that have had civil libertarians boiling. With another handful of senators, he has been adamant regarding the need for narrowing the executive branch's legal arguments favoring the use of armed drones for targeted killings. On that matter, he went so far as to join Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky to filibuster the appointment of John Brennan as CIA director.

When it comes to tax policy and other issues under the finance committee's purview, there is also considerable distance between Wyden and Baucus. In crafting the legislation that created the Affordable Care Act, Baucus never seriously considered a single payer plan, something Wyden backed, and his efforts gave the giant pharmaceutical industry just about everything it could have wished for. Baucus was also one of the two Democrats invited to help develop the industry-friendly Medicare prescription plan that included a deal not to bid down drug prices. Wyden has pushed legislation to negotiate those prices downward.

Please continue reading more below the fold about Wyden as possible finance chairman.

Baucus favored Bush's 2005 plan to partially privatize Social Security. Baucus led opposition to Bush's 2005 plan to partially privatize Social Security. Wyden opposed the plan.

On the other hand, Wyden worked in 2002 with conservative Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch on a comprehensive health care plan, the Healthy Americans Act, that, among other things, would have partially privatized Medicaid and had employers cash out their employee health-care plans and pass the savings along to workers in additional wages—as if the latter would ever happen. In 2012, Wyden caught considerable grief from fellow Democrats when he teamed up with Republican Rep. Paul Ryan on a plan designed to overhaul Medicare. He subsequently retreated from that plan.

Having met with Republicans in secret for weeks before announcing the plan, Baucus was the major force on the Democratic side of the aisle in getting the Bush tax cuts of 2001 passed. He switched to vote against the tax cuts of 2003. Wyden voted against the cuts both years.

But, working with Republican Sen. Judd Gregg of New Hampshire, who was at the time the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, and later with Republican Sen. Dan Coats of Indiana, Wyden developed a comprehensive tax reform bill that got positive notice from the right-wing Heritage Foundation, not least because it would have done away various exemptions, the alternative minimum tax and the estate tax permanently as well as instituting a 24 percent corporate income tax.

Baucus backed the Bush financial bailouts in 2008. Wyden opposed them.

Ezra Klein has has depicted Wyden as an optimistic wonk:

It’s not that Wyden’s proposals are perfect. But they’re serious, thoughtful efforts to map out principled, bipartisan compromises. And Wyden is not shy about bringing them up — in a committee hearing or a television interview or even when he’s jammed into an elevator with a few other senators.
Measured by any gauge, Wyden stands well to Baucus's left and isn't beholden to the industries that are so understandably fond of the retiring Montanan. But there's little doubt from his record that Wyden as chairman would continue to seek bipartisan deals with some of the more conservative senators at a time when conservativism has moved ever further to the right, making nearly any bipartisan agreement a deal with the devil from the get-go.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:27 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos Oregon and Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  The icing on the cake (9+ / 0-)

    It's going to be awfully nice to see the end of the odious Max Baucus (fake Democrat - Lobbydom), but Wyden heading the Finance Committee is even better news.  Of course Schumer is going to take the chair of the Banking Committee since he's another Bankster/Wll Street coin operated politico.

    Of course, this assumes that Dems retain control of the Senate in the 2014 elections which are so far looking like they'll be a repeat of 2010.

    There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

    by Puddytat on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:40:10 PM PDT

    •  Who gets the extra.. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pedmom, BvueDem, TRPChicago, Puddytat

      ...Dem seat on the Finance Committee?

      Can we get Elizabeth Warren on it? She understands the impact of taxation on families better than the rest of the Senate combined.  

    •  So Meteor Blades' words don't give you pause? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Puddytat
      But there's little doubt from his record that Wyden as chairman would continue to seek bipartisan deals with some of the more conservative senators at a time when conservativism has moved ever further to the right, making nearly any bipartisan agreement a deal with the devil from the get-go.
      •  I consider it an upgrade from what we have (0+ / 0-)

        right now, but by no means perfect.  I certainly feel better about him than Schumer who has been in the pocket of the Banks and Wall Street and certainly exponentially better than Baucus.

        No, not perfect, just better.

        There already is class warfare in America. Unfortunately, the rich are winning.

        by Puddytat on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 09:15:05 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Agreed, kaliope. And thanks to Meteor Blades for (0+ / 0-)

        his comprehensive 'history' of the Senator's health reform endeavors.

        Pushed for time, so I'll let this screenshot 'speak for itself.'

        Except to add that 'it gives me great pause' to think that Senator Wyden will take over this position from Baucus (for the reasons MB has already stated in the latter part of his diary).

        Screenshot_042413_113745_AM

        From Wikipedia:

        Wyden characterizes himself as an "independent voice for Oregonians and the nation . . . "

        Translation:  'I'm not a liberal.'  :-)

        Seriously, on the topic of health insurance reform, it sounds like Senator Wyden might be the perfect replacement to 'carry the baton' for Senator Baucus.

        He sounds like a 'mixed bag' at best.  Here's the link to Wikipedia.

        And this from Ezra Klein's WaPo blog:

        Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.) announcement that he’ll retire in 2014 clears the way for Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) to become chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee.

        If Baucus annoyed Democrats for being too cautious, Wyden will annoy them by being too ambitious — and too ceaselessly interested in brokering big, bipartisan deals.

        This is especially troubling since the Administration often touts that they are proposing more cuts to Medicare than were even proposed in the President the [Bowles-Simpson] Fiscal Commission's recommendations.

        Just found a roster of Democratic Finance Committee Members.

        And Senator Sherrod Brown (OH) is also on the Finance Committee.  

        Now he's a Senator that I could enthusiastically support, LOL!  [But I suppose there's not a chance that he could take this seat.]

        Mollie

        "Only he who can see the invisible, can do the impossible."-- Frank L. Gaines


        hiddennplainsight

        by musiccitymollie on Wed Apr 24, 2013 at 10:55:13 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Wyden is tremendous improvement. (15+ / 0-)

    But Schumer at Banking is definitely going to be worse. And I'm pretty sure he's going to take that seat as long as Harry Reid isn't going anywhere...and he isn't.

    However, there's still some hope Schumer challenges Durbin for Whip and then takes on one of the Banking subcommittees. Then we might be able to get Brown the gavel at Banking and Wyden the gavel at Finance. Both would be good moves.

    I also think getting back to regular order and putting some more power back into the hands committees is in order. I'm glad to see the push for that coming from both parties.

  •  Wyden is a decent guy (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pdx kirk, ferg, llbear, Brecht, Citizenpower

    'Super Dave" is a pretty good Democrat on most issues.  Health Care he's a strange on, but some of his ideas are good even there - namely doing away with employer based insurance.  He's a definite improvement over Baucus.

    •  Doing away with employer-based insurance... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pdx kirk, koosah, MrSandman, llbear, Brecht

      ...as long as the replacement isn't a step backward on coverage and as long as there is no pretense that employers will pay higher wages voluntarily if they don't have to pay for health insurance costs.

      Don't tell me what you believe, show me what you do and I will tell you what you believe.

      by Meteor Blades on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:55:23 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Well his earlier plans (0+ / 0-)

        At universal health insurance were not bad.  It was more or less Obamacare except instead of some people qualifying for the exchanges the tax break employers get for providing HC would be eliminated and everyone would be on the exchanges.  

        However I'm not sure what Wyden was thinking with his more recent collaboration with Paul Ryan.  That idea was a disaster.

  •  Sometimes Ron's efforts at bipartisianship... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    koosah

    ....have gone a bit off the reservation. But I have always respected his willingness to try such efforts. His work with Congressman Greg Walden(R) to create a substantial addition to the Mt. Hood wilderness areas was a detailed, surprising and successful effort at a time when no one thought such would be possible.

    .....it's on the table, under the watermelon she demurred. Thanks, I was planning on shaving anyway he replied.

    by pdx kirk on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 01:59:46 PM PDT

  •  You "had me" at... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dharmasyd

    "...If Democrats still control the Senate in 2015..." since that's a BIG "if," especially as it regards the after-effects of our country's newest budget(s), among a few other "minor" matters.

    All of our talk about foxes guarding the henhouse, and now Schumer as Chair of the Banking Committee? Might as well appoint Lloyd Blankfein, instead! (Save everyone a lot of time and kabuki.)

    Upon the retirement of Baucus', who's now at the forefront of efforts to pass the Fast-Track for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (which Fast-Track enables), very likely succeeds at those efforts within our country's totally captured government, it won't matter a whole hell of a lot who's running this country, since our country's major corporations (and/or their foreign subsidiaries/affiliates) will be able to do whatever they want to whomever they wish, both here and abroad. At that point, it'll be game over.

     

    "I always thought if you worked hard enough and tried hard enough, things would work out. I was wrong." --Katharine Graham

    by bobswern on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 03:40:40 PM PDT

  •  First order of business: (6+ / 0-)

    Assure that Democrats retain control of the Senate in 2014. Strong candidates, contributions to war chests, feet on the ground.

    "It doesn't matter what I do....People need to hear what I have to say. There's no one else who can say what I can say. It doesn't matter what I live."--Newty

    by Vico on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 03:47:00 PM PDT

    •  There are six Democratic Caucus (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      auron renouille, TRPChicago

      seats in legitimate jeopardy, obviously implicating which party will hold the Chamber:

      Begich (Alaska)
      Pryor (Arkansas)
      Open/Retirement (Iowa)
      Landrieu (Louisiana)
      Hagan (North Carolina)
      Open/Retirement (South Dakota)

      ... and a completely hysterical set here wants to primary three of these sitting Senators.  Unbelievable.  

  •  Next domino is Landrieu (0+ / 0-)

    at Energy.  Good for her reelection chances, bad for everyone else.  

    Difficult, difficult, lemon difficult.

    by Loge on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 05:09:07 PM PDT

    •  Landrieu isn't wonderful, (0+ / 0-)

      ...but at least she's a Democrat and is vastly better than Diaper --umm, I mean David Vitter. I'm not sure the political climate in Louisiana (I live here) is up to electing anyone better right now. Hell, we can't even boot Vitter despite how richly he deserves it.

      This state has a profound mix of "north of I-10" which is blood red and much of which can rightfully be called Texas East and the southeastern part of the state anchored by New Orleans which is deep and solid blue. Many of our state governors have been Democratic, but Kathleen Blanco lost the state through epic incompetence and paved the way for Bobby Jindal. He's moved the state largely to the right under his administration, but recently people have woken up to him bigtime and his popularity has fallen off a cliff. I don't know if we can go blue anytime soon, but there's definitely a backlash in effect against the GOP. It might pay dividends in a year or three, but for now what we got is probably the best we can hope for.

      At least she's not a Baucus or Lieberman.

      "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

      by DarthMeow504 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:17:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oregon (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MrAnon, ororis, Jim H, alpaca farmer

    has the best Senator pairing around.

  •  What are our reasonable chances in the Senate (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Bush Bites, KnotIookin, ChadmanFL

    in 2014?  I don't want to be a downer but it's hard to imagine Blue pickups in some of these seats we're losing.  Are the Republicans seeing similar retirements yet?

    "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

    by auron renouille on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:04:48 PM PDT

    •  Republicans need six seats - which rarely happens (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      auron renouille, ChadmanFL

      except in wave elections.

      •  That's true; I suspect that, unless we're in bad (0+ / 0-)

        shape, we can count on successfully defending at least 1-3 of those seats.  Hopefully more, of course, but some of those states are just rough for Dems, particularly Alaska, Arkansas and Louisiana.  AR and LA especially; those two states are the last bastions of the Dixiecrats, and New Orleans lost much of its African-American population to Houston; that has to be one of the states where it's going to be getting harder for us, not easier.  I wonder if other challenging seats are up for election then or if the front lines are primarily going to be drawn over the open seats.

        Ugh, I hate the Senate.

        "The first drawback of anger is that it destroys your inner peace; the second is that it distorts your view of reality. If you come to understand that anger is really unhelpful, you can begin to distance yourself from anger." - The Dalai Lama

        by auron renouille on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:30:19 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  All we need to do is hold the Senate (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          auron renouille, ScottyUrb

          And I think we will with losses something along the lines of 3 to 4 seats, leaving us with about a 51 or 52 seat majority.  Once the 2014 cycle is passed we have a good looking landscape to look forward to in 2016.

          AZ (McCain) - Very possible retirement.
          FL (Rubio) - Not sure if he'll even be running.
          IL (Kirk) - Top tier target/possible retirement.
          IA (Grassley) - Probably retirement I'd say
          KY (Paul) - Rand Paul will always be vulnerable
          MO (Blunt)
          NH (Ayotte) - Easily a top-tier target
          NC (Burr)
          OH (Portman) - Near certain primary target by tea baggers
          PA (Toomey) - Guaranteed top-tier target
          WI (Johnson) - Far-right tea bagger who is likely to lose

          On defense there isn't much in 2014.  Potntially CO (Bennet), NV (Reid) and WA (Murray), but that's about it.  Whatever is lost in 2014 can potentially be made up and then some in 2016, a high turnout Presidential election.

      •  This being an Obama midterm (0+ / 0-)

        I wouldn't rule out a wave.

        "Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the president to explain to us what the exit strategy is." - George W Bush

        by jfern on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 09:07:58 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  I'd be surprised if the Senate is lost (0+ / 0-)

      When I looked at the Senate landscape for 2014 a few years ago things looked really bad.  But now I'd say Dems have at a good 70% or so chance of holding it.  They'd have to pickup 6 seats, which is tough to do unless 2014 is a disaster.  Even in the disastrous 2010 sysle Dems only lost 6 seats in the Senate.

      As of now I'd rate the races like this.  To take the Senate republicans would have to win every race I have Tilt D or worse.  They also need to hold every seat they currently own, which seems likely right now but I have a feeling KY and GA will be more competitive than people think.  There's a decent likelihood of an Akin/Mourdock type of implosion by the GOP candidate in the Georgia race.  Some of the races like SD and MT we might actually be better off because the incumbent retired.

      Tilt R - WV, SD
      Tossup - AR
      Tilt D - MT, LA, AK
      Lean D - IA,
      Likely D - MI, NC, MN, CO

      GOP Seats:
      Lean R - KY, GA
      Likely R - SC, ME

  •  Hey, in the picture, doesn't the shadow and chair (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    blukat, pedmom

    behind him make it look like he has a very long full pony tail?

    Tracy B Ann - technically that is my signature.

    by ZenTrainer on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:08:35 PM PDT

  •  Any Dem would be better than Baucus (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ChadmanFL

    Granted, I have some reservations about Ron Wyden being Finance chairman/ranking member, but he'd be MUCH better than Max Baucus.

    Progressive first, Democrat second

    by DownstateDemocrat on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:17:41 PM PDT

    •  Wyden for Senate Finance Chair is no sure thing. (0+ / 0-)

      That he is next ranking is influential, certainly, but not determinative.

      The pressure will be huge to anoint as a kinder, gentler, more predictable head-of-tax-policy-in-America than Ron Wyden, assuming the Senate stays Democratic (as I believe it will).

      To many of the interests who would be consulted, Schumer would be a more palatable Finance chair than Wyden ... for better or worse. Would Schumer take it? I think so - in a heartbeat. Many Kossacks will disagree, but Schumer is very liberal, stubbornly so, and thereby not likely to be voted Majority Leader even if Harry Reid were to step down or be moved aside. (Which, unfortunately, is not likely in 2014.)

      2014 IS COMING. Build up the Senate. Win back the House : 17 seats. Plus!

      by TRPChicago on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 08:49:48 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Baucus and Lieberman (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    msmacgyver, Meteor Blades

    The twin reasons Democrats NEVER had a 60-vote filibuster proof majority and had to water down everything in Obama's first term. There were others that weren't very good democrats, but those in particular were Republicans wearing a D by their name. Is there such an animal as an elephant mole? If so, there's your taxinomic classification for those two, because they sure as hell weren't donkeys.

    "Is there anybody listening? Is there anyone who sees what's going on? Read between the lines, criticize the words they're selling. Think for yourself, and feel the walls become sand beneath your feet." --Geoff Tate, Queensryche

    by DarthMeow504 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:22:56 PM PDT

  •  First ques I have about Wydens chairmanship is.. (0+ / 0-)

    How likely is it that the democrats will hold the senate?   And by what vote Margin?  

    "You've got to be an optimist to be a Democrat, and a humorist to stay one" - Will Rogers

    by KnotIookin on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:25:03 PM PDT

  •  Super Dave? (0+ / 0-)

    Am I the only one who thinks Wyden looks like "Super Dave" Bob Einstein?

  •  I hope that Baucus (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades

    doesn't go on a spree before he leaves.  

    We should run a pool on who he goes to work for and what his base salary will be.


    "Justice is a commodity"

    by joanneleon on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 06:30:06 PM PDT

  •  Which dems aren't seeking reelection (0+ / 0-)

    for senate?  Mostly blue dogs?  Will we lose these seats?

    "To recognize error, to cut losses, to alter course, is the most repugnant option in government." Historian Barbara Tuchman

    by Publius2008 on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 07:01:37 PM PDT

  •  Baucus DID NOT support privitization (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades

    He led the charge to unite Senate Democrats against Bush's proposal. He's done a lot wrong in his career, but he's been a good defender of Social Security.

    Not only did Reid tap Baucus to lead the public effort in the Senate against privatizing Social Security, he picked Baucus’ chief of staff and longtime Montana political operative Jim Messina to work behind the scenes on a nationwide campaign to defeat Bush’s plan. Taken in sum, the plan worked.
  •  Quoting Salon on Baucus' retirement, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Meteor Blades, barkingcat

    "Good Riddance"  (highly recommend the linked article):

    http://www.salon.com/...

    Remember, Baucus is not any old senator holding an office and casting terrible votes on social issues like guns. He is, more important, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee. As the panel that oversees every major economic issue from healthcare to Social Security to taxes to trade, the committee is the most powerful body in the United States Congress. That means despite being relatively unknown outside of the Beltway and Montana, Baucus is one of the most powerful politicians in the world.

    Unfortunately, in the last decade Baucus has used that power in terribly destructive ways. snip...click on link

    These are just some of the big things. Baucus has also been the reliable engineer of smaller but equally destructive rip-offs — most recently, a half-billion-dollar pay-to-play giveaway to a pharmaceutical company in exchange for campaign contributions.

    Last week, the New York Times published a report on how Baucus’ Senate office has been Washington, D.C.’s unofficial jumping-off point for a lucrative career in corporate lobbying. The story reported on an open secret: Basically, if you want to become a millionaire influence peddler in the Beltway, you just get a job in Baucus’ office and then after a few years market yourself to a lobbying firm as someone who can influence him. Once in the lobbying job, all you have to do to influence Baucus for your clients is leverage your personal connection to his network and fork over big campaign contributions to his campaign.

    When someone is impatient and says, "I haven't got all day," I always wonder, How can that be? How can you not have all day? George Carlin

    by msmacgyver on Tue Apr 23, 2013 at 07:16:20 PM PDT

  •  DW Nominate (0+ / 0-)

    So I decided to look up Wyden's scoring on the DW Nomiante scale, which scores and ranks members of both Houses from -1.00 (most liberal) to 1.00 (most conservative) based on roll call votes. Unsurprisingly, Bernie ranks as most liberal (-0.541), and just as unsurprisingly, ten R's are further from the center (rightward) than Bernie is.

    Ron Wyden has a -0.342, putting him between Stabenow and Rockefeller.  He ranks #25 in the list of 53 members of the caucus from last session.

    Baucus, on the other hand, is a -0.226 and ranks #44 out of the 53.

    So definitely an improvement.

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