Maine Senator-elect Angus King will caucus with Democrats

Maine’s Independent Senator-elect Angus King announced on Wednesday that he will caucus with the Democrats.

“I’ve decided to affiliate myself with the Democratic Caucus because doing so will allow me to take independent positions on issues as they arise and at the same time will allow me to be an effective representative of the people of Maine,” said King.

King, the former Governor of Maine, succeeded retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe to become the first Independent Senator elected from Maine.

The Democrats expanded their majority in the Senate to hold 53 seats after the 2012 elections. Joined by Independent Senators King and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), the Democratic Caucus will grow to 55 members. But despite the gains, Democrats still fall short of the 60 votes they need to overcome filibusters.

However, King emphasized that he will maintain his independence and urged lawmakers to forge bipartisan solutions to the challenges confronting the nation, namely the debt and deficit.

Senator-elect Angus King (I-Maine). SOURCE:

“By associating myself with one side, I am not in automatic opposition to the other,” said King. “The challenges before us are too great and the stakes are too high to allow partisan differences to keep us from finding common grounds even on the most difficult issues. And I hope that in a small way – in a small way – I may be able to act as a bridge between the parties – an honest broker to help nudge us towards solutions.”

Although King had considered not joining either caucuses, he recognized that doing so would hinder his ability to be an effective representative for Maine.

“The principal disadvantage of this go-it-alone approach is that I would be likely largely excluded from the committee process, which is where most of the work of any legislative body takes place,” he explained. “Occasionally, my vote would probably prove crucial and be eagerly sought by both sides but in the long run, I’d be relegated to the sidelines as the day-to-day work of the Senate was done by others.”

King cited two reasons align with the Democratic caucus: 1) King was assured by his conversations with Independent Senators Sanders and Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Democratic Leader Harry Reid that his “independence would be respected and that no party line commitment would be required or expected”; and 2) the Democrat’s clear majority in the Senate would enable King to obtain better committee slots.

King said that he has submitted his committee preferences to Reid, including the coveted Senate Finance Committee which would take the lead in crafting any comprehensive tax reforms. However, King acknowledged that it’ll be a long shot for freshman Senator to land a seat on the Finance Committee.

“There were no promises made except for fair and full consideration of my interest as a Senator, as a representative of Maine,” King said of his conversations with Reid. “But as I said, no harm in asking.”

King also indicated that he would support changes to the Senate filibuster rules to end the political gridlocks that have left many urgent businesses unattended.

“I’m not one who thinks [filibuster] should be abolished all together. However, I think its use in recent years has been excessive and I hope to talk with other Senators who are more expert in this matter to find a solution that would limit its use as a tactic of delay and prohibiting action but at the same time protect the interests of the states. So somewhere between no filibusters at all and the current situation,” said King.

With a divided government, King said, Congress could choose to either pursue “action based upon good-faith compromise or no action resulting from political deadlock.”

“No action based upon deadlock is simply unacceptable to the people of Maine and the people of the United States,” he warned. “We must find a way to act because many of the problems before us – the debt and deficit is probably the best example – have a time fuse. The longer we avoid acting, the worse they get. In this case, no decision is in itself a decision, and it is almost undoubtedly the wrong decision.”


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