Maine independent King announces he will caucus with Democrats

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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WASHINGTON — Independent Maine Senator-elect Angus King officially announced Wednesday that he would caucus with the Democrats, as it was expected he would do.

Throughout his campaign, King refused to answer questions about which party he would caucus with, a question he was asked “repeatedly.”

Though it was long expected that he would caucus with the Democrats, King reignited some suspense in the past few days, requesting meetings with both Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

“I wanted to maintain my independence as long and as thoroughly as possible, while at the same time being effective in my representation of Maine,” King said of his decision process.

“The first option I considered was whether I could literally go it alone, and not align myself with either party and operate entirely outside of the current partisan structure of the senate,” King said.

Sen. Olympia Snowe, whose seat King will take when she retires at the end of this term, told reporters Tuesday that she warned him against such an option in a meeting Monday.

“It’s important to caucus, you know, with one side or the other, obviously, because committee assignments and everything else that flows from that alliance is critical,” Snowe said.

King came to that conclusion, saying that not aligning: “although tempting in many ways, it has become apparent … that this simply wouldn’t be practical.” (RELATED: Republicans split on how to handle Obamacare after president’s re-election)

The results of the election made the decision “relatively easy,” the former Maine governor said.

“Affiliating with the majority makes the most sense,” he said, because that party has “more committee slots to fill, has more control over what bills get considered, and more control over the Senate schedule.”

King indicated that he would not be a sure vote for Democrats at all times, saying that the affiliation would “allow me to take independent positions on issues as they arise,” while at the same time giving him the committee assignments to help him be “an effective representative of the people of Maine.”

In making his decision over the past three days, King spoke to Reid, former Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine, Independent Sens. Bernie Sanders and Joe Lieberman, both of whom caucus with the Democrats, as well as “more than a dozen senators of both parties.” On the Republican side, he spoke to Sen. Roy Blunt, the Republican Conference Vice Chair, the fifth ranking position.*

But one person was notably absent from those discussions: McConnell himself.

His discussion with Blunt was the only one he had with Republican leadership, King said. Asked why he did not meet with Minority Leader McConnell, King said: “he didn’t contact me.

In his meeting with Reid, King said he was not promised any committee assignments, but said that he “indicated several committees that I would be interested in.”

One committee he expressed interest in was the Senate Committee on Finance: “My father used to say, ‘If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

“He pointed out to me that it took Sen. Kerry 14 years to get on the finance committee so it might be somewhat unlikely for a first-year senator to achieve that,” he said.

He would not say what other committees he was interested in.


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*This article previously misstated Sen. Blunt’s position in the Senate Republican leadership.