Sen. Max Baucus confirmed this morning that he will serve out his current term and not seek re-election in 2014, saying in a release that "serving the people of Montana has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life."
"After much consideration and many conversations with my wife Mel and our family, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2014," Baucus said. "I will serve out my term, and then it will be time to go home to Montana."
The press release outlined Baucus' priorities for the coming year and a half, including the North Fork Watershed Protection Act, the Rocky Mountain Front Heritage Act and passing a strong Farm Bill. "I’m not turning out to pasture," the six-term Democrat said, "because there is important work left to do, and I intend to spend the year and a half getting it done. Our country and our state face enormous challenges—rising debt, a dysfunctional tax code, threats to our outdoor heritage, and the need for more good-paying jobs."
Baucus added that the decision not to run for reelection was "extremely difficult," but ultimately he wanted to spend the next two years working in Washington, D.C., "unconstrained by the demands of a campaign."
"Then, I want to come home and spend time with Mel, my son Zeno, and our family enjoying the Montana public lands we’ve fought hard to keep open and untarnished."
The full release appears below:
Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.
Trustee of bankrupt Montana electric co-op says assets have little value
The court-appointed trustee for the Southern Montana Electric Generation and Transmission Cooperative said the Highwood Generating Station power plant near Great Falls was worth about $5.6 million, less than a tenth of the $85 million borrowed to build the plant, and that the power contracts held by the utility were essentially worthless.
Great Falls Tribune; April 23
Baucus was elected in 1978 and currently serves as chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. The Post sums up his controversial legacy:
At times infuriating his Democratic colleagues, Baucus worked with Republicans to co-write the Bush-era tax cuts and the Medicare prescription drug plan, but he also served as the lead defender against George W. Bush’s 2005 effort to partially privatize Social Security and played a critical role in writing President Obama’s national health-care plan.
From conservative-leaning Montana, Baucus has voted against Democratic initiatives on some social issues, most recently last week’s effort to create an expanded background check system for gun purchases.
Update: The Washington Post's "The Fix" has a comment from a former Baucus staffer, speaking on the condition of anonymity, claiming the Senator's decision was not electoral.
A former Baucus aide who was in touch with the senator’s staff on Tuesday said Baucus opted to step aside for reasons more personal than electoral. Baucus wanted to spend more time with his family, said the former aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to provide a candid take.
And the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, which this week launched a $100,000 ad campaign targeting Baucus for his vote against universal background checks on gun purchases, issued an official statement on the Baucus retirement news via email. "Good bye, Senator K Street," wrote PCCC co-founder Stephanie Taylor. "Max Baucus has a history of voting with corporate interests and not the interests of Montana voters—taking millions from Wall Street, insurance companies, and lobbyists. Montana will finally have a chance to have a senator with its best interests at heart, and we hope Brian Schweitzer jumps into the race immediately."
We'll have more on this story as it becomes available.
Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.
USFS's budget policy gives western forests more flexibility
The U.S. Forest Service's "Integrated Resource Restoration" policy, which combines budgets for timber, wildlife, range, soil and watershed projects, is being used in the Bridger-Teton and Caribou-Targhee national forests, and a dozen other forests in the Intermountain West.
Jackson Hole Daily; April 22
Curses, Foiled Again
Authorities charged Ruth C. Amen, 46, with embezzlement after she paid for a surprise birthday party for her boss. Amen had been the office manager at a real-estate company in Boca Grande, Fla., for more than 10 years, but her decision to foot the bill for the party aroused the suspicion of company officials. They alerted Lee County sheriff’s investigators, who discovered that Amen had stolen $181,674. (South Florida Sun-Sentinel)
Elizabeth A. Hoen, 18, was charged with stealing three steaks from a grocery store in Wausau, Wis., after she attracted attention by standing naked from the waist down on a street corner. She had put her pants back on by the time police arrived but ran when officers approached. They caught her, found the steaks in her purse and determined they’d been stolen from a nearby grocery store. (Wausau Daily Herald)
Biga Pizza is best known for its brick oven-cooked pies topped with ingredients like Flathead cherries, local beef and toasted hazelnuts. It’s why the eatery is one of the most consistently filled joints in downtown. But crafting artisan za is not the only thing that makes Biga among Missoula’s tastiest hangouts.
Clearing the air: Just so we’re all on the same page, a calzone is basically a pizza turnover. They are usually filled with ricotta and mozzarella cheeses and typical pizza toppings. If you’ve never had a calzone, don’t feel bad—there aren’t many options in Zoo Town (Philly West and UM’s Country Store, to name two on a pretty short list).
The Biga ’zones: Biga has five calzones on its menu: cheese, sausage, pesto, spinach and mushroom, and the Joey’s Calzone, which is stuffed with prosciutto di Parma, whole milk ricotta, mozzarella and mascarpone cheeses, garlic and roasted peppers. They are all delicious, but recently we’ve been loving on the spinach and mushroom, which is salty, appropriately unctuous and a tad sweet with the ricotta.
A note on method: The best calzones are served with marinara on the side. When they are cooked with sauce inside, you’ll be dealing with a dough sack of molten juices and steam. Get the marinara on the side, and dip your ’zone accordingly. It’s not only safer for the roof of your mouth, but it allows you to taste the calzone’s filling. At Biga, it’s well worth it.
When to go: Biga Pizza is located at 241 West Main Street and serves lunch Monday through Friday, and dinner Monday through Saturday.
Hangriest Hour serves up fresh details on western Montana eats. To recommend a restaurant, dish or chef for Hangriest Hour, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Top news links, courtesy of Mountain West News.
Sen. Max Baucus couldn't catch a break yesterday. Mere hours after he made headlines for a string of critical comments made during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on the Affordable Care Act, the six-term Democrat again stoked tempers when he voted against a measure to expand background checks on gun purchases. The issue arose during a vote on the so-called Manchin-Toomey amendment, which fell just six votes short of the 60 votes it needed to move forward in the U.S. Senate. Sen. Jon Tester voted in favor of the proposal.
Advocates for increased gun control here in Montana were quick to criticize Baucus' position. Nancy de Pastino, founder of the state chapter of Moms Demand Action and the nonprofit's regional manager for the north central United States, fired off an email to a Baucus staffer this morning stating she was "sincerely disappointed" in the Senator's vote. She later shared the content of her message with the Indy.
"I'm incredibly disappointed," de Pastino wrote, "and if [Baucus] can't do something to resurrect common sense gun violence solutions by the summer recess, he has lost my vote and the votes of all Moms Demanding Action. The Senators who voted no on the Toomey-Manchin compromise yesterday are going to pay at the polls."
Baucus' office shared several comments from the Senator explaining his reasoning. Baucus acknowledged that "recent tragedies have shaken all of us, and everyone wants to do their part to protect our children and communities from violence of all kinds." He added he's heard "from thousands of Montanans" on question of universal background checks, "and it is clear that Montanans overwhelmingly did not support restricting the Second Amendment."
According to a Quinnipiac University poll conducted nationwide earlier this month, 53 percent of gun owners believe expanded background checks could lead to confiscation of legally owned firearms. However, that same poll found that 91 percent of Americans—including 88 percent of households with guns—support the concept of universal background checks.
Yet Baucus maintains the Manchin-Toomey amendment wasn't the right fix, with his office citing strikingly low prosecution rates stemming from background checks in recent years. "We aren't doing a good enough job enforcing the laws that are already on the books," Baucus said in a statement today. “We need real solutions that will actually make our communities safer. That is why I supported funding school safety and mental health care resources, and investing in a comprehensive study to help us understand why what causes violent tragedies like the ones we’ve seen. The bill I supported also requires the Department of Justice to take a good, hard look at how they can use the tools they already have to keep guns away from criminals.”
Montgomery Distillery just opened in September, but it's already won some national attention. New York Magazine featured the Missoula business in its "Outstanding Drinks from All 50 States" round-up. The magazine chose to highlight the recipe for Montgomery's slightly tart and spicy Black Diamond, a cocktail combining vodka, honey simple syrup, muddled rosemary and fresh ground pepper.
A press release from Montgomery Distillery says the owners, Ryan and Jenny Montgomery, are honored to be the only distillery featured among the 50 states.
New York's other recommendations included the St. Germain-based, hazelnut-garnished Elderflower Cocktail mixed at Bismarck, N.D.'s Toasted Frog and the Yodelayheehoo, a Scotch-infused-cream-topped hot toddy, at Jackson Hole, Wyo.'s Handle Bar.
Click here for Montgomery Distillery's Black Diamond recipe.
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