Politico: Baucus Slowing Daschle
Indeed indeed, as I predicted yesterday but hadn't yet seen suggested elsewhere, the Chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is hardly inclined to do the embattled HHS Secretary-designate any favors. Politico reports:
It’s not clear how [Daschle's] explanation will play with Republicans, who spent Sunday raising questions about the Obama’s administration’s vetting process — or with Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.), who’s been in a long-running feud with Daschle.
Daschle’s nomination as secretary of health and human services was expected to sail through the Senate, where he served for 18 years. But Democratic aides complain that Baucus has slow-rolled the nomination, and on Friday it hit a significant roadblock when it was revealed that Daschle had failed to pay more than $100,000 in taxes on the use of a car and driver provided to him by Leo Hindery, a major Democratic donor and longtime friend.
Baucus — who quickly came to the defense of then-treasury nominee Timothy Geithner when he had tax problems — has said nothing in public about Daschle’s issues.
“The silence has been deafening,” said a Democratic staffer...
The exact origins of the feud between Baucus and Daschle are unclear, but the existence of it is so well known within Democratic circles that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) referred to it in his book, “The Good Fight,” released last year.
“Baucus was the only Westerner to vote against Daschle in his race for Democratic leader in 1994, which Daschle had only won by a single vote, and they had been driven farther apart on the issue of taxes,” Reid wrote. “By the end, they really couldn’t stand each other and had had several extremely testy exchanges on the [Senate] floor and in private as a result.”
Baucus and Daschle have clashed over taxes, trade and former President George W. Bush’s Medicare prescription drug program, which Baucus supported. Daschle kept Baucus off a House-Senate conference on the 2002 farm bill, which infuriated Baucus.
Baucus privately accused Daschle of trying to overrule committee chairmen and being a weak leader, while Daschle and other top Democrats believed that Baucus was willing to sell out the party to advance his own agenda. Senior Democratic aides said Baucus “was ecstatic” when Reid took over as Democratic leader following Daschle’s defeat in 2004 by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.)
“It’s never gotten any better from Baucus’ side,” said a Democratic insider who knows both men well. “Daschle thought Baucus was untrustworthy, while Baucus thought Daschle was indecisive. They really hate each other.”
I interned for Baucus, and he's a good guy. He advances Montana's agenda first and values his citizens over his party, true, but he doesn't "sell out anyone." However, I've also long supported Daschle, and I'm not going to take sides here. What's surpising about this spat is that Baucus' old Chief of Staff, Jim Messina, is now a White House Deputy Chief of Staff. You'd think the hope for a successful Obama administration might override old Senate friction, but if it's a legit feud, perhaps not. :ike Politico says, no one really knows what's at the root of the feud.