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Baucus nomination as China ambassador clears Senate panel

| Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2014, 6:09 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana moved one step closer to becoming the next ambassador to China on Tuesday with a committee vote approving his nomination.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved the nomination by voice vote, with six other administration nominees.

“I'm not surprised, considering his experience and relationships in the Senate,” the committee's chairman, Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, said.

Menendez said a full Senate vote could occur as early as Thursday.

Baucus had appeared before Menendez's committee a week ago. His nomination, made in late December, was expected to sail through the Senate without much trouble.

Baucus told senators during his confirmation hearing last week that he would “be fair but firm” in his dealings with China.

He said he hoped to “partner with China as it emerges as a global power and encourage it to act responsibly in resolving international disputes, respecting human rights, and protecting the environment.”

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona had said during the hearing that he was “concerned” about some of Baucus' answers, warning Baucus to be skeptical in dealing with China's leaders.

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