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Baucus: Colleagues Have Offered Words of Support

Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) said Saturday that Democratic and Republican Senators alike have offered him words of encouragement in the wake of his admission that he had a personal relationship with his former State Director, Melodee Hanes, while she was still working in his office.

But few Members have been willing to comment publicly about the news on a day when the Senate is debating a health care bill that Baucus had a hand in crafting. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said in a brief statement Saturday that “Max is a good friend and outstanding Senator and he has my full support,” and Baucus said following a vote on health care issues that Reid and others approached him on the chamber floor to offer support.

And while the Republican National Committee was calling for an Ethics Committee investigation into the fact that Baucus recommended that Hanes be appointed U.S. attorney for Montana earlier this year, his Senate GOP colleagues were having none of it. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) declined to comment when asked about the relationship, as did other Senate Republicans.

Baucus, 67, and Hanes, 53, have had a personal relationship since the summer of 2008, several months after Baucus and his ex-wife had separated. Earlier this year, Baucus forwarded Hanes’ name to President Barack Obama for consideration as the U.S. attorney for Montana, along with the names of two others.

But Baucus said Saturday that he and Hanes ultimately pulled her name from consideration in part to avoid the appearance of impropriety and “because we didn’t want to live apart.” Hanes has since moved in with Baucus in Washington, D.C., and now works for the Justice Department — a position Baucus has maintained he had no hand in securing.

Baucus, who is at the center of the ongoing Congressional debate on health care legislation, said Saturday that news of his relationship with Hanes has not been a distraction. “No, not at all, none whatsoever,” he said when asked if it was hindering his work on the legislation.

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