Max Baucus to retire from Senate; Brian Sweitzer considering a run

As I work on longer pieces, I’ll be filling this space with shorter ones, news items and links to commentary on our persistent themes. This is a Max Baucus / Brian Sweitzer story.

One of those themes is troglodyte Dems in the U.S. Senate. Earlier we identified four, whom we called “the worst of the worst” — bad on Keystone, bad on guns.

Those senators are:

Score Last Name First State Party Phone Class Mar 23 Keystone Apr 17 Manchin
-5 Baucus Max MT D (202) 224-2651 2 -1 -1
-5 Begich Mark AK D (202) 224-3004 2 -1 -1
-5 Heitkamp Heidi ND D (202) 224-2043 1 -1 -1
-5 Pryor Mark AR D (202) 224-2353 2 -1 -1

Notes: A score of –5 means a bad vote on five scored votes, the four key guns vote and Keystone. A “Senate class” is a group up for re-election in the same year. “Class 2” senators are up for re-election in 2014, the coming election year. Notice something about that list?

Bad on Keystone, bad on guns

Though the recent fight in the Senate was over gun safety and gun control (see our reporting here), we at La Maison are looking ahead to the Keystone fight as well. That battle could well decide if the U.S. accelerates the timing of climate catastrophe or retards it.

For reference, my best estimate gives us a 5–10 year window to act — to stop putting carbon into the air. After that, it really is over. For good measure, the day that most people “get” that it’s over, the global chaos begins. I mean that literally. The U.S. military, hubristic as it is, can’t stop it; they can only make it worse.

This is the U.S. in 2100 under the do-nothing scenario (aka the Keep David Koch Happy plan). Even Montana won’t be wonderful:


So, four Democratic targets thanks to Keystone and guns — Baucus, Begich, Heitkamp, Pryor. I’ll offer a fifth, retiring Tom Harkin’s Iowa Senate seat. Harkin has been a reliable progressive on most things, including Keystone and gun safety, and we need to hold that seat for a progressive, not just a Democrat.

The recent news is this — Obama has apparently placed a shot across the bow of freshman Senator Heidi Heitkamp, via ex-administration chief-of-staff Bill Daley, he of the Chicago Daleys and JP Morgan Chase. Surrogate work for Daley. I suspect that today, Heitkamp is giving some thought to giving some thought to what do do next, at least on guns. If so, good.

Now we find that a second of the targets of anti-NRA activists, Max Baucus, has announced his retirement. The Hill (my emphasis and some reparagraphing):

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) is retiring, a source has told The Hill. The longtime chairman of the Senate’s tax-writing panel faced a difficult reelection contest in Montana, a state easily won by Republican Mitt Romney in the 2012 presidential election.

Baucus’s retirement complicates Democratic hopes of holding the seat — and the Senate. Baucus is the sixth Senate Democrat to announce his retirement this election cycle, and in five of those states the race for the open seat could be competitive. The other retiring Democrats are Sens. Tom Harkin (Iowa), Jay Rockefeller (W.Va.), Tim Johnson (S.D.), Carl Levin (Mich.) and Frank Lautenberg (N.J.).

Will Max Baucus go home to spend more time with his family. Only if his family writes million-dollar lobbying checks from mahogany K Street offices, I suspect. There’s at least that much thank-you money in Baucus’s future; all he has to do is collect it.

Expected replacement on the Democratic side is former Montana governor Brian Sweitzer:

Looking to 2014, both Democrats and Republicans have short benches in Montana. But one name could clear the field for Democrats and give them a strong chance of retaining the seat: Former Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D), who left office early this year and remains highly popular in the state. Schweitzer’s approval rating was 56 percent with 37 percent disapproving, according to to a February survey from Public Policy Polling.

That’s two senators of four; Heitkamp gets a slap and Baucus is retiring. You may want to keep the pressure on Mark Pryor (not only bad on Keystone and guns, he’s bad on gay rights as well). And Mark Begich is still out there, an oil-state senator with a Keystone vote coming. Phone numbers above; operators are standing by.

Do you want to support Brian Sweitzer for Baucus’s Senate seat?

Do you want to support Brian Sweitzer for the Senate? An interesting question. A more interesting question might be, What do want to tell him you want?

About the first question, supporting Brian Sweitzer gives the Democrats a very good chance of holding Baucus’s Senate seat, and in some ways, of upgrading it from troglodytic to fairly progressive. Sweitzer is good on many issues, including abortion and the corrupting influence of money in elections.

climate change pollution global warming CO2

CO2 via Shutterstock

On the other hand, he’s also for public-private partnerships in education (sounds like “school reform” to me, but we’d have to be sure) and while he supports renewable energy, he has also supported “clean coal.” Yikes.

So what are your issues? Holding the Senate for Democrats? If so, he’s your guy, and you should encourage him to run. But if your issue is Keystone, you should help put him on the record.

Which brings me to the second question above — What do you want to tell him you want? How about this:

Tell him you want to support him in 2014.
Tell him you want to contribute to his campaign (and vote, if you’ re from Montana).
Tell him you want to know where he stands on Keystone.

What you do in 2014 is your business. You can tell him whatever you want, today. And if you get an answer on Keystone, please report back. That revelation should earn you a prize.

How to contact him? Oddly enough, you can reach him at:

Governor Brian Schweitzer
PO Box 1742
Helena, MT  59624

Twitter: @BrianSchweitzer
Facebook: Brian Schweitzer
Email: [email protected]

Seems simple enough. Five minutes ought to do it, don’t you think? Again, please report back.

Why you should act

Why do I keep encouraging all these actions? Because it’s getting down to the short strokes as I see it, on way many fronts, and I know from my readers’ responses that people both get it and are frustrated.

I deliberately put actions in these posts because I want to give you something to do while doing something matters. And I deliberately suggest easy actions because a small thing will get done before a large thing.

So please, don’t give up yet — make the call, or click the email address above, and (in a coffee moment, not a beer moment) plead your case and ask your questions.

Or if you must, do give up — but make that call anyway. I will stop completely when this seems pointless. It’s not pointless yet. And it really does take just five minutes.

As always, thanks!


To follow or send links: @Gaius_Publius

Gaius Publius is a professional writer living on the West Coast of the United States.

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