WASHINGTON — The Senate confirmed Montana Senator Max Baucus’s appointment as ambassador of China on Thursday on a 96-0 vote.

Baucus “is an extremely smart person, and certainly versed in what goes on here in the Congress of the United States,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a speech on the Senate floor.

Baucus has represented Montana in the Senate since 1978, and is the third longest serving senator. He served in the House for three years and the state legislature for one term.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee approved his nomination earlier this week. Baucus is close with Jim Messina, President Barack Obama’s former Deputy Chief of Staff and 2012 re-election campaign manager, who also ran Baucus’ 2002 re-election campaign. Messina served as a go-between for Baucus and the White House, and his road to the nomination was helped paved by a close relationship with Vice President Joe Biden.

Baucus announced last April that he would no seek re-election after this year, and his impending retirement could set off a game of musical chairmanships. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., could take over Baucus’ role as chairman of the Senate Finance committee. If he does, he would abandon his chairmanship of the Senate and Natural Resources Committee, which would likely be taken by Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu.