Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., has decided not to run for re-election in 2014, instead opting to spend the next year and a half focusing on his job as Montana’s senior Senator and chairing the Senate committee in charge of tax policy, as opposed to re-election.

Baucus’s committee has been conducting a series of hearings in recent years on tax reform and begun posting a series of tax reform options on its Web site. He has recently attracted controversy within the Democratic caucus, however, for voting to oppose background checks for gun sales and against Senate Democrats' budget, and for lobbying by former members of his staff. However, he has proven to be a lawmaker who has worked successfully across party lines to pass tax legislation, such as the fiscal cliff deal, and played a key role in shepherding the tax provisions of the health care reform law across the finish line after working with Republicans and Democrats on his committee to craft the policy.

“Serving the people of Montana has been the greatest honor and privilege of my life,” Baucus said in a statement Tuesday. “Over the past 35 years, I have been lucky to go from working for just under 800,000 of the world’s best bosses to more than a million—and I am grateful to each and every one of them for the opportunity they have given me. When I first asked my hero and mentor Mike Mansfield whether I should run for U.S. Senate nearly 40 years ago, he told me it would take a lot of hard work, a lot of shoe leather, and a bit of luck. In the next year and a half, I want to spend all my hard work, shoe leather and luck working for the people of Montana instead of on campaigning.

"So, after much consideration and many conversations with my wife Mel and our family, I have decided not to seek reelection in 2014," Baucus added. "I will serve out my term, and then it will be time to go home to Montana. But, I’m not turning out to pasture because there is important work left to do, and I intend to spend the year and a half getting it done. Our country and our state face enormous challenges – rising debt, a dysfunctional tax code, threats to our outdoor heritage, and the need for more good-paying jobs. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work. I will double down on legislation to permanently protect the American side of the North Fork watershed and keep the Rocky Mountain Front the way it is for future generations.  I am going to put everything I’ve got into leaving Montana with strong Highway and Farm Bills that support jobs in our state. And I’m going full steam ahead to put on the best Economic Development Summit yet.”

Baucus said he planned to continue his work on simplifying and improving the Tax Code, tackling the nation’s debt, pushing important job-creating trade agreements through the Senate, and implementing and expanding affordable health care for more Americans.

“Deciding not to run for re-election was an extremely difficult decision,” he said. “After thinking long and hard, I decided I want to focus the next year and a half on serving Montana unconstrained by the demands of a campaign. Then, I want to come home and spend time with Mel, my son Zeno, and our family enjoying the Montana public lands we’ve fought hard to keep open and untarnished. Above all else, I want Montanans to know how grateful and humbled I am to have had the privilege of serving them, and I look forward to working with them as I continue to serve the state I love for the next year and a half.”

Former Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer is considered to be one of the leading contenders for running to replace Baucus in his Senate seat, although the state often votes Republican.

Former Senate Finance Committee chairman and later ranking Republican member, Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, noted that he has worked closely with Baucus. “We ran the Finance Committee for 10 years together, and every bill except for three or four was bipartisan,” he said in a statement. The Senate will be worse off as a deliberative body when Senator Baucus leaves. Like his mentor Mike Mansfield, Senator Baucus believes the Senate ought to produce legislation through comity and consensus.  His departure will be a big loss for the Senate.  I look forward to working with him over the rest of his term.”

Since the beginning of the current congressional term, Baucus has held weekly meetings with House Ways and Means Committee chairman Dave Camp, R-Mich., to discuss tax reform.

“Max is a true legislator and friend for whom I have great respect, and I look forward to continuing our work to fix the Tax Code and protect and preserve our entitlement programs for current and future beneficiaries,” Camp said in a statement. “Max has made clear that his commitment to comprehensive tax reform that lowers rates and makes the code simpler and fairer for our families and job creators remains a top priority.  I couldn’t agree more, and I share his vision for enacting real tax reform this Congress.”

House Ways and Means Committee ranking member Sander Levin, D-Mich., also praised Baucus on hearing of his decision not to seek re-election. “Max Baucus has left a lasting mark on the Senate over more than three decades,” Levin said in a statement. “And for that our nation is better off. We have worked together on key issues, among them when as a team we led the effort to defeat the Bush administration proposal to privatize Social Security. While there were instances of differences on policy, I have always respected his commitment to the people of Montana and appreciated his direct and honest approach. I look forward to continuing to work closely together over the next two years on tax reform and on implementation of the health reform law in whose creation he played a central role.”