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Bye Bye, Baucus! Enjoy Your Retirement

Max Baucus plans to retire in 2014 rather than run for office again. Is his rather sudden about-face related to a cushy pharma lobbying job or backlash from his gun bill vote?

Great news this morning! Instead of inflicting six more years of bluedog madness on us, Max Baucus (D-Pharma) has decided the time has come to retire. Please, Max, don't let the revolving door hit you in the butt on your way out.

This leaves the door open for Democrat Brian Schweitzer to step through, and also leaves leadership of the Senate Finance Committee up in the air, assuming Democrats hold onto their majority in 2014.

As usual, the mainstream outlets like ABC News have framed this as a terrible, terrible thing for Democrats.

Baucus, who has served in the Senate for 36 years, intends to make his announcement this afternoon. The decision surprised - and angered - some Democrats, given his vote last week against expanding background checks in the gun debate - a top priority of President Obama.

Of course, Harry Reid could simply bring up the bill again if he chose to, and Baucus could now change his vote to one that appeared principled, even if it's just for appearances.

Here's why I'm doing the happy dance: Obamacare. Max Baucus did everything he possibly could to make sure the Affordable Care Act was as complex as could be. When he was done making it complex and delaying the meaningful provisions for four years, he had the nerve to dress down Kathleen Sibelius last week for it being a "train wreck."

Just for review, the House sent over a bill that had national insurance exchanges, not state-based. Their bill had a public option, it had better rate bands and it had a more coherent effective date schedule. After Baucus sat on it as long as he could, he rolled out a bill that ultimately became law which included state-based exchanges, less favorable rate bands, and then opposed all efforts to negotiate drug prices.

I'm grateful the Affordable Care Act passed. But for him to sit in a committee hearing and dress down the people tasked with actually implementing it without giving so much as a wink and a nod to the insurers who are using every last loophole HE wrote into it to make it unnecessarily complex? It's classic Baucus and it's why I'm glad he's leaving.

See ya on the other side, Max. I'm sure Big pHRMA has a nice warm seat waiting for you.

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