Tuesday, May 21, 2013
WASHINGTON - Angus King, the affable former governor who rode Maine's independent streak to a U.S. Senate seat, took the oath of office Thursday during a day of ceremony and camaraderie that belied the challenges facing Congress.
Shortly after he was sworn in Thursday, Sen. Angus King, a Maine independent, laughs along with his wife, Mary Herman, and Vice President Joe Biden as they embrace on the floor of the Old Senate Chamber in the U.S. Capitol. The new senator thanked the current batch of leaders “for not solving all of the problems, for saving some.”
John Boal photos/for the Press Herald
Maine Sen. Susan Collins pays a visit to Sen. Angus King and his daughter, Molly, during a reception after King’s swearing-in Thursday.
Wearing a shiny new Senate lapel pin and a lobster tie that his wife, Mary Herman, gave him Thursday morning, King raised his right hand along with three other senators as Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath to the group.
"Well, I made my speech: I do,'" King said to laughs from several dozen family members, supporters and friends about 30 minutes later. "Last time I said that, I found myself married."
Less than a year ago, King wouldn't have imagined being called "Senator King." The former two-term governor has said he had no intention of re-entering political life.
But longtime Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe announced her retirement on Feb. 28. And 10 months and a $3 million campaign later, King became the first independent from Maine to be sworn into the U.S. Senate.
Several dozen of King's family members, campaign staffers and personal friends -- including actor Sam Waterston -- watched him take the oath or crammed into a Capitol conference room with him afterward for refreshments.
At least four generations of King's family then gathered around Biden for a picture in the Old Senate Chamber, after a second swearing-in ceremony re-enacted for family members and the media.
It was a day when Republicans, Democrats and a handful of independents enthusiastically shook hands and slapped each other on the back, at the start of a new Congress. Of course, the glow isn't expected to last long.
Fresh off the fight over the fiscal cliff, Congress faces battles over issues such as the national debt, deep spending cuts, entitlement reform and whether to change the Senate filibuster. And that's just the agenda for the next two to three months.
In typical King style, Maine's new senator offered his supporters and family members a more lighthearted take on what awaits Congress.
"I thanked all of the current senators for not solving all of the problems, for saving some," King said. "They said they were going to but they knew I was coming."
It's an open question how much influence King will have as a freshman in a tradition-bound chamber where seniority rules. King is replacing Snowe, a moderate Republican and a 34-year veteran of Congress who was well respected for her policy expertise and willingness to work across party lines.
King has vowed to maintain his independence even as he caucuses with the Democrats, the majority party. He also has an impressive list of committee assignments for a freshman, on the Budget, Armed Services, Intelligence and Rules committees.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins learned Thursday that she will move to the Intelligence Committee, on which Snowe served.
Republican caucus rules prevented her from serving another term on the Homeland Security Committee, which she had served on since its creation.
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Sen. Angus King receives a hug from his granddaughter, Maya, 4, during a reception following his official swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol in Washington on Thursday.
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Sen. Angus King of Maine greets his supporters and family during a reception celebrating his official swearing-in ceremony at the Capitol on Thursday.