According to the National Journal’s “Influence Alley” blog, Montana U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, 70, is “losing his top tax staffers by the day.”
Baucus, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee and architect of the new federal health care law, has set his sights on rewriting U.S. tax code, a task Politico called “a once-in-a-generation undertaking certain to spark an all-out lobbying war on Capitol Hill and at the White House.”
Pundits expect Baucus, architect of the controversial Affordable Care Act, a.k.a. “Obamacare,” to face a tough reelection battle in 2014.
Three high-ranking Baucus staffers, including his chief of staff, have left Baucus’ office in recent weeks.
An exodus is occurring among committee staff and in Baucus’ personal office, leading tax lobbyists and congressional staffers to wonder about the effect this will have on any potential overhaul of the tax code in 2013, as well as Baucus’ own legislative agenda.
According to the National Journal, Russ Sullivan, Baucus’ “long-time right hand man” and the Democratic staff director of the Senate Finance Committee, on Thursday became the most recent staff member to move on to a new carrier after working 18 years in the Senate.
Baucus chief of staff , Jon Selib, announced earlier this month he was leaving Baucus’ staff to take a job in the private sector with a British strategic intelligence firm called Hakluyt.
According to Politico’s “Influence” blog, K Street “heavyweights in the tax arena” were scheduled to throw a happy hour in Selib’s name today:
Sen. Max Baucus’s (D-Mont.) chief of staff Jon Selib is going out in style with more than a dozen downtowners, many heavyweights in the tax arena, throwing a happy hour in his honor Thursday.
Robert Glennon, Nick Giordanob, Jeff Forbes, David Castagnetti, Greg Mastel and Patrick Heck are all on the invite list for the event at 201 Bar. Peter Scher, Tim Punke, Judy Miller, Liz
FlowerFowler and Jim Messina are also on the host committee.
A third Baucus staffer, corporate tax expert David Hughes is leaving Baucus’ staff to join the IRS, the National Journal reports.
The Journal said the departure of the three high-level staffers from the Senate’s top tax-writing committee comes at a curious time when “Congress is mired in fights over the future of tax policy, with no immediate compromise in sight or commitment to do tax reform.”
The committee’s spokesman said these departures would have no bearing on committee business next year. “Senator Baucus has every intention of taking tax reform up in the next Congress and working to create jobs and boost the economy,” said Sean Neary, communications director. “He has been laying the groundwork for tax reform for well over a year, meeting regularly with Finance Committee members as well as Ways and Means Chairman, Dave Camp. He is prepared and confident that the Committee can get something done. And he is confident it will get done with his new staff director Amber Cottle at the helm.”
The Journal said such high-level departures means a significant loss of expertise for the Senate Finance Committee:
…both in terms of the policy and politics of the best way to move legislation forward. That’s a blow for Baucus, who’s intent on doing tax reform next year.
Baucus is going to be Ambassador to France or another large European country. He's cutting a deal with the White House. Should be done within six months. That's why the staff is leaving. He wants a cabinet post but isn't going to get one, so he's using his muscle on Senate Finance (he can block things and screw the White House) to negotiate a golden parachute for himself.
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