Sen. Ron Wyden is planning to start his chairmanship of the influential Finance Committee by surveying his colleagues on tax issues.
The Oregon Democrat is set to take the gavel from outgoing Sen. Max Baucus of Montana, who will be heading to Beijing as President Obama’s ambassador to China. Baucus’s confirmation was approved unanimously Thursday on a 96-0 vote.
Wyden, who has stayed largely mum on his priorities as Finance chairman until his ascendance became official, said tax extenders — legislation to extend expiring provisions — could be used as a “bridge” to tax reform.
He also addressed trade, an issue that divides Democrats: Baucus and the White House agree with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp on giving Obama trade-promotion authority, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and other liberals oppose the measure.
“There have been so many changes in global commerce that a number of senators have simply indicated they want the time to have a chance to discuss these issues, to walk through what some of these changes in global commerce mean for our country and how various approaches to trade law would affect that. So I have got some listening to do with my colleagues. And a number of senators have come up and said, we’re anxious to get together on these issues,” he said.
For his part, Baucus bid farewell from the floor of the Senate, at times becoming emotional, especially when speaking of his son Zeno and remembering his deceased mother. Baucus, an accomplished runner and the son of a rancher, also fondly spoke of his home state. “We’re outdoor people,” he said. “It becomes a part of our soul.”
One Republican, Finance ranking member Orrin Hatch of Utah, watched the speech, while Wyden and Democratic Sens. Maria Cantwell of Washington, Thomas Carper of Delaware, Dick Durbin of Illinois, and Jon Tester of Montana also listened from the floor.
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