Thursday January 31, 2013 | 10:22 AM

WASHINGTON – Thursday is a big day for Maine’s Sen. Angus King.

The public will get its first chance to see – and probably hear – Maine’s new independent senator working at the committee level during a nomination hearing for President Barack Obama’s pick for secretary of defense, former Sen. Chuck Hagel.

Later Thursday, the Senate is expected to vote to on a debt-ceiling bill that includes a provision King mentioned repeatedly during his fall campaign.

King spokeswoman Crystal Canney said the senator plans to ask Hagel questions during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, although she declined to preempt King as to the subject matter. Although King has participated in Senate Intelligence Committee meetings in recent weeks, that committee’s hearings often deal with classified information and are closed to the public and press.

Hagel, a former Republican senator from Nebraska, is expected to get a grilling from some of his former colleagues on the right side of the aisle. King, an independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has said he believes the president “should have significant latitude in appointing members of his own cabinet.”

Hagel and King met privately last week. The two men discussed the dwindling resources facing the Department of Defense, Israeli security and the threat posed by Iran. Defense spending is a major issue for Maine due to the shipbuilding and maintenance operations at Bath Iron Works and the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

You can watch the Hagel hearing here. They are expected to last much of Thursday.

Some time after noon, the full Senate will then begin consideration of a House bill to delay action on the nation’s debt ceiling until mid-May. The bill also contains a provision – known as “No Budget, No Pay” – that would withhold paychecks from members of Congress unless they pass a budget, although critics dismiss it as little more than a budget gimmick.

King repeatedly voiced his support for a “No budget, no pay” provision during the campaign.

 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
Kevin can be reached at 317-6256 or kmiller@mainetoday.com

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