In 2009 and 2010, Baucus played a key role in authoring Obamacare. Despite an opaque process and widespread opposition from the public, Obamacare narrowly passed a Democrat-held House and Senate in 2010. However, Baucus himself described the Affordable Care act as a "huge train wreck coming down" during a budgetary hearing with the Health and Human Services chief earlier this month.
"I just see a huge train wreck coming down," Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., told Obama's health care chief during a routine budget hearing that suddenly turned tense.Last week, Baucus was one of five Democrat Sentaors to vote against legislation authored by West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania Republican Pat Toomey that would mandate background checks for all private firearms transfers. The bill, which required 60 votes to pass, fell short by four votes in the Democrat-held senate earlier this month.
Baucus is the first top Democrat to publicly voice fears about the rollout of the new health care law, designed to bring coverage to some 30 million uninsured Americans through a mix of government programs and tax credits for private insurance that start next year.
Normally low-key and supportive, Baucus challenged Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius at Wednesday's hearing.
He said he's "very concerned" that new health insurance marketplaces for consumers and small businesses will not open on time in every state, and that if they do, they might just flop because residents don't have the information they need to make choices.
"The administration's public information campaign on the benefits of the Affordable Care Act deserves a failing grade," he told Sebelius. "You need to fix this."
Responding to Baucus, Sebelius pointedly noted that Republicans in Congress last year blocked funding for carrying out the health care law, and she had to resort to raiding other departmental funds that were legally available to her.
The administration is asking for $1.5 billion in next year's budget, and Republicans don't seem willing to grant that either.
President Obama spent considerable political capital attempting to get any sort of gun control passed in the wake of the Newtown, CT school massacre. However, Baucus represents a state with a high number of gun owners and there were concerns from gun owner's rights groups that the Toomey-Manchin bill would establish the framework for a nationwide gun registry and criminalize hunters and relatives borrowing guns. The defeat in the Senate spurred a press conference by petulant Obama where he denounced the Senate's 'shameful' vote while flanked by families from Newtown. Veiled threats about ending the political careers came from gun-control groups after the vote, but an ad buy in Montana from Bloomberg's Mayors Against Illegal Guns wouldn't have affected Baucus in Montana. The senior senator from Montana had an A+ rating from the NRA.
Montana Republicans have been bracing for a tough campaign against the entrenched Baucus in 2014. However, now the list of candidates for either side has been thrown into flux. One possible name for the Democrats is former governor Brian Schweizer, who unsuccessfully ran for US Senate in 2000.