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Baucus Breaks Silence on Daschle, Suggests Support

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) broke his silence Monday on the nomination of Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee Tom Daschle, saying despite Daschle’s admitted failure to properly pay his taxes, he is “an invaluable and expert partner” on health care issues.

“I have applauded Senator Daschle’s nomination to the post of HHS Secretary, and my faith in his dedication and qualifications has only been bolstered in recent weeks by our numerous conversations about the pressing need for comprehensive health care reform,” Baucus said in a statement.

Baucus suggested the nomination will go through despite Daschle’s tax mishap — he recently had to repay $128,000 in back taxes — Baucus noted that he is “eager to move forward together.”

Baucus’ statement comes nearly 48 hours after several other high-ranking Senate Democrats rushed to voice support for the former Senate Majority Leader, who amended his taxes after the presidential transition team discovered “clerical errors” in his earlier filings, in which the nominee did not report his use of a private car and driver.

Daschle and Baucus served together for nearly two decades. Their relationship was at times a frosty one — particularly in 2001 when the Montana Democrat broke with many in his party and supported President George W. Bush’s tax cuts.

As chairman of the Finance Committee, Baucus now leads the panel that will ultimately vote on whether to recommend Daschle’s nomination to the full Senate.

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