Maine’s U.S. Senator-Elect Angus King announced he will caucus with Democrats while remaining independent in an effort to “bridge” differences between the two parties.
With his decision, Democrats will control the Senate by a 55-45 margin starting in January.
The outcome of the Nov. 6 election made the decision easy, King told reporters at a press conference in Washington today. King had been expected to 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 for the people of Maine,” he said. “By associating myself with one side I am not in automatic opposition to the other.”
King said he wants to maintain his “independence as long and thoroughly as possible” and thought about “going it alone.” He said not choosing sides “simply wouldn’t be practical” and he would “largely be excluded” from the committee process and sidelined by Senate rules.
He said he discussed his decision with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat. King said he asked to be placed on the Senate Finance Committee, adding that no promises were made.
“My father used to say if you don’t ask you don’t get,” he said.
King said he didn’t talk to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, in making his decision. When asked why, King said: “He didn’t contact me.”
King, 68, defeated Republican Charlie Summers, 52, Maine’s secretary of state, and Democratic state Senator Cynthia Dill, 47. King was governor of Maine from 1995 to 2002.
He will fill the seat held by Maine Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, who announced in February that she wouldn’t seek re-election, citing too much partisanship in Congress.
Although King is an independent, Democrats saw his candidacy as their best opportunity to pick up a Republican Senate seat.
The Senate’s structure requires King to caucus with one of the major parties or be left out of committee assignments. King has said he voted for Republican George W. Bush in the 2000 presidential race, Democratic nominee John Kerry in 2004 and President Barack Obama in 2008. King said he would vote for Obama again this year.
King supports abortion rights and Obama’s 2010 health-care law, which Republicans have said they will try to repeal. He backs spending cuts combined with higher taxes and economic growth to reduce the U.S. budget deficit.
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