The new Democratic chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee on Friday said he will use his first days on the job to "find the right paths forward" to reform the federal tax code system.

Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said other top priorities include protecting Medicare while lowering costs, improving U.S. trade overseas, and "ensuring that Americans continue to have access to quality, affordable health care."

"The goal of any finance chairman is to preserve and improve the ability for American families to get ahead and American businesses to succeed," said Wyden in his first official statement as chairman.

The Democrat also promised to foster bipartisanship on the panel, saying that "in this highly polarized environment, the route to legislative success must go through cooperation on both sides of the aisle."

"Unfortunately, many view bipartisanship as a sign of weakness or little more than a quaint goal," he said. But "when done right, this process takes the best ideas from every side and drops the ideology that results in gridlock."

Wyden assumed the chairmanship after the panel previous head, Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., stepped down last week after the Senate China/article/2543635">confirmed his nomination to be U.S. ambassador to China. Wyden, in turn, gave up his chairmanship of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La.

Wyden praised Baucus for his seven years at the helm of the committee, saying the effects of his efforts will be felt for generations.

"As chairman, he successfully knocked down unfair trade barriers to American goods, opening up new markets and improving America’s ability to compete overseas," Wyden said. "He reformed America’s health care system to provide millions of Americans with access to quality, affordable care."