Washington (CNN)— Sen. Max Baucus’ office confirmed Saturday the Montana Democrat was in a relationship with a woman he also recommended for U.S. Attorney.
According to a statement released by the senator's office, both Baucus and Melodee Hanes decided to withdraw her name for personal reasons, adding that their relationship was not the cause of their respective divorces.
"When Senator Baucus and Melodee Hanes, his former state director, realized that their relationship was developing beyond a purely professional nature, Melodee began the process of resigning her Senate employment," Ty Matsdorf, a spokesman for Sen. Baucus said in a statement. "With an extensive background as a prosecutor and extensive legal experience, Ms. Hanes submitted her name for consideration for the U.S Attorney position from Montana."
The statement, which includes a copy of Hanes' resume, shows years of political and defense experience. Her name was one of six recommended for U.S. Attorney. After "extensive evaluation," by a third party, Hanes' name was submitted as one of three to be considered for the position, it said. After further interviews by Baucus and the junior senator from the state, Jon Tester, Hanes' name was submitted to the White House along with two other top candidates, it added.
"While her personal relationship with Senator Baucus should in no way be either a qualifier or a disqualifier for the position, during the nomination process and after much reflection, both Senator Baucus and Ms. Hanes agreed that she should withdraw her name from consideration because they wanted to live together in Washington, DC," Matsdorf said.
Baucus, the chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, has been in the spotlight for his prominent role in the health care debate.
UPDATE: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid issued a statement about the development, saying "Max is a good friend an outstanding Senator and he has my full support."
A Democratic leadership aide defended Baucus saying, "she withdrew of her own accord and is not the nominee. There's no real issue here other than that the press likes a good story where they can use the word "girlfriend." It's doubtful that there's any ethical and certainly no legal issues."
–CNN's Dana Bash contributed to this report.