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HELENA -- U.S. Sen. Max Baucus says tax cuts and ensuring approval of the Keystone XL oil pipeline are top congressional priorities for 2012.

Montana Chamber of Commerce leaders gathering in Helena made it clear that the Obama administration's decision to deny a permit for the pipeline is a major concern. The group's chairwoman argues that such decisions further harm the country's competitiveness with China.

Baucus, a Democrat, says he will "make sure the White House gets the message" that the pipeline running from Canada to Texas must be approved.

Baucus, the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, says extending the payroll tax cut for a full year is another top priority, as is a compromise with House Republican leaders to simplify the tax code with lower rates.

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