(CNN) - Senate Democrats are calling oil and gas industry executives to testify next week about the billions of dollars they get in tax subsidies at the same time they are earning enormous profits and consumers are facing steep price hikes at the pumps.
Democrats also will seek a vote on legislation to block the subsidies to the largest oil companies and use the savings to either fund clean energy programs or reduce the deficit, according to a Senate Democratic leadership aide.
(CNN) – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is the first Democrat to express displeasure with President Obama's recess appointment of Dr. Donald Berwick to head the agency overseeing Medicare and Medicaid.
"I'm troubled that, rather than going through the standard nomination process, Dr. Berwick was recess appointed. Senate confirmation of presidential appointees is an essential process prescribed by the Constitution that serves as a check on executive power and protects Montanans and all Americans by ensuring that crucial questions are asked of the nominee – and answered," the Montana senator said in a statement.
Baucus went on to state that he looked forward to working with the agency on health care reform's implementation "despite the recess appointment."
Listen: CNN Radio's Lisa Desjardins takes a look at the decision.
– CNN Congressional Producer Ted Barrett contributed to this report.
New York (CNNMoney.com) - Lawmakers will start 2010 with a hefty to-do list thanks to a lot of unfinished tax business they left on the table in 2009. The chief example: the estate tax.
Senate Democrats failed to reach a deal with Senate Republicans to temporarily extend the estate tax into 2010, when it is scheduled to be repealed for one year.
But that doesn't necessarily mean there won't be any tax on inheritances in the year about to start.
Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, D-New York, have said they will try to get it reinstated for 2010 after the new year.
Washington (CNN)– Republican National Committee Chairman Michael Steele called for a Senate Ethics Committee hearing to evaluate any possible wrongdoing by Sen. Max Baucus Saturday.
In a statement released by the RNC Steele said:
"Today's report that Senator Max Baucus used his Senate office to advance a taxpayer funded appointment for his staff-member girlfriend raises a whole host of ethical questions. This issue demands the attention of the Senate Ethics Committee. They should hold a hearing to identify who was involved in this process, what they knew and when they knew it, and why Senator Baucus put his personal needs above those of the people of Montana."
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.
WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Obama and Vice President Biden both called Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus to congratulate him on committee passage of a health care bill, according to Finance Committee spokesman Scott Mulhauser.
(CNN) - Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Montana, is facing heightened criticism from members of the liberal wing of the Democratic Party over his panel's health reform bill that lacks the so called "public option" for health insurance.
In a new 60 second commercial that begins running Tuesday in Baucus' home state and in Washington, D.C., Montana farmer Bing Perrine urges Baucus to support a public option - something the senator has ruled out in a bid to gain bipartisan support for the measure. Perrine said that he faces more than $100,000 in medical bills because of heart problems.
The ad is being paid for by the two liberal advocacy organizations: Progressive Change Committee and Democracy for America.
The Montana Democrat has instead backed more limited health cooperatives, a move that so far has failed to attract any firm GOP support and has angered some members of his own party. Democratic Sens. Chuck Schumer of New York and Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia have introduced an amendment to Baucus' bill that would add a public option. The amendment will be voted on as early as Tuesday in the Finance committee.
"Senator Baucus, when you take millions of dollars from health and insurance interests that oppose reform, and oppose giving families like mine the choice of a public option, I have to ask: 'Whose side are you on?'" Perrine, said in the new ad.
Progressive Change Committee and Democracy for America said they will initially spend $50,000 on the ad and hope to raise an additional $50,000 to keep it on the air.
Full Script after the jump:
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) – More than a million people could receive an additional 13 weeks of unemployment benefits under a bill approved by the House on Tuesday.
The bill extends benefits for those living in states with jobless rates higher than 8.5%. Some 27 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, fall into this category. The national unemployment rate hit 9.7% in August, the highest in 26 years.
The legislation now moves to the Senate. While there is support for the measure on both sides of the aisle, senators may make significant changes to it. Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., is seeking to expand the bill to give additional weeks of benefits to people in all states, not just high unemployment ones, an aide said.
Senate Republicans, meanwhile, want to look at other funding approaches, said a spokesman for Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
WASHINGTON (CNN) – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus said Tuesday he will focus on health care costs as he offers changes to the compromise health care proposal he unveiled last week.
He made his comments as the committee met to begin considering his plan.
"My colleagues, this is our opportunity to make history. Our actions here this week will determine whether we are courageous and skillful enough to seize the opportunity to change things ... for the better," he said.
"No one should die because they cannot afford health care. This bill would fix that.