President Obama intends to nominate Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) as ambassador to China, Democratic officials said Wednesday, turning to a lawmaker well-versed in trade issues to fill a leading diplomatic post.

If confirmed, Baucus would replace Gary Locke, who announced last month he was stepping down.

There was no comment from the White House.

Baucus, 72, was first elected to the Senate in 1978 and since 2007 has been chairman of the Finance Committee.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia is immediately behind Baucus in seniority and ordinarily would ascend to the chairmanship but intends to retire at the end of next year. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is next in line in seniority. - AP