Mont. Democrat leads Senate health charge

The Boston Globe‘s Lisa Wangsness reports that Montana Democrat and Senate Finance Committee chair Max Baucus has become a leader in the legislative push for health-care reform.

At a time many see as the best opportunity in 15 years for a comprehensive healthcare overhaul, Baucus, 67, has stepped into an unexpected leadership void. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, a leader on the issue for decades, is suffering from brain cancer. Obama’s initial point-person on health reform, Tom Daschle, who boasted both extensive legislative experience and in-depth understanding of the policy, withdrew his nomination for Health and Human Services secretary because of tax problems.

Wangsness reports that, instead of using a weak economy as an excuse to put off reform plans, Baucus has argued that in tough financial times health care costs are a bigger issue than ever. Sen. Baucus has moved quickly to establish health-care street cred, Wangsness said. “Since last June, he has held hearings, hired top policy staff and issued a widely praised 89-page blueprint for reform days after the election.”

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