Washington (AFP) – President Barack Obama will tap outgoing Senator Max Baucus to be the next U.S. ambassador to China, a Senate aide said Wednesday.
As chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, Baucus helped craft Obama’s landmark health-care law, and his lengthy experience on the committee makes him well versed in trade issues, an all-important portfolio for dealing with the United States’ second-largest trading partner.
The Montana Democrat’s staff did not respond to a request to confirm the move. But a congressional source said fellow Senator Orrin Hatch told reporters that he was aware of the White House plan.
Hatch is the ranking Republican on the Finance Committee and works closely with Baucus on a wide range of issues.
The White House declined to comment on the appointment, and it remained unclear when the nomination would be announced.
Baucus, like all ambassadorial nominees, would need to be confirmed by the Senate.
The 72-year-old was first elected to the Senate in 1978. He announced in April that he would not seek re-election in 2014.
Baucus would replace Ambassador Gary Locke, a former secretary of commerce in the Obama administration, who has served in the sensitive Beijing post since 2011.