Senator-elect Angus King, I-Maine, walks to a news conference where he announced that he will caucus with the Democrats in the 113th Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012. King has now received his committee assignments. (AP Photo/Harry Hamburg)
By Kevin Miller
Washington Bureau Chief
WASHINGTON — Sen.-elect Angus King of Maine has been chosen to serve on Senate committees that help craft the federal budget and oversee the nation's armed forces and intelligence-gathering agencies.
In the House of Representatives, Democratic leaders have recommended Rep. Chellie Pingree of Maine for the powerful Appropriations Committee, which is responsible for deciding how federal dollars are spent.
The Senate and House Democratic Steering Committees' assignment lists are subject to approval by the respective Democratic caucuses.
King was chosen for seats on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Budget Committee, Intelligence Committee and Committee on Rules and Administration.
Although he's politically independent, King opted to caucus with Democrats, the Senate's majority party.
Much of Congress' work on legislation and oversight of government programs is done at the committee level, and the party caucuses control committee assignments.
Lawmakers often seek posts on powerful money-related committees and on panels focused on issues that are important to their constituencies. Freshmen often have less sway than veteran members when it comes to assignments.
King's recommended appointments to several higher-profile committees caught the attention of some in Washington. An article on Politico bore the headline "Good to be King: Rookie gets sweet panel seats."
King's widely anticipated decision to caucus with the Democrats gave the party 55 seats in the 100-seat Senate. The former Maine governor said throughout his campaign that he might try to use his caucus decision to negotiate better committee assignments.
King did not make himself available for an interview Wednesday, but released a statement saying "I am pleased with these assignments and feel they are in line with the priorities of Maine people."
Sen. Olympia Snowe, a moderate Republican with considerable sway, will retire in January after 34 years in Congress, so Maine will likely lose a coveted seat on the Senate Finance Committee, which oversees taxation and health care.
King will fill the Intelligence Committee seat being vacated by Snowe. He will be involved in classified briefings on intelligence matters and in oversight of the agencies.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins now serves on the Armed Services Committee. Republicans have yet to release their committee assignment recommendations.
King and Collins could serve together on the Armed Services Committee, which oversees all aspects of the military, or Collins may be seeking a different assignment.
As a member of the Rules Committee, King could be involved in the Democratic leadership's attempts to reform the filibuster, which Democrats say Republicans have abused in recent years to slow progress on key issues. Republican leaders have vowed to fight filibuster reform efforts.
The Budget Committee is responsible for developing a spending blueprint for the federal government based on anticipated revenues. The Senate Appropriations Committee, on which Collins now serves, then decides precisely how that money is spent.
Pingree's anticipated appointment to the House Appropriations Committee would give Maine a presence on a powerful committee in that chamber.
Pingree is one of two Democrats who party leaders added to the 50-member Appropriations Committee on Wednesday.
"I had an opportunity and I felt that I couldn't turn it down," said Pingree, noting that an open seat was reserved for a representative from New England. "I know from my previous legislative experience that Appropriations is really where policy becomes resources."
If approved for the assignment, Pingree plans to seek appointment to the subcommittees that handle defense spending and agriculture.
Pingree is married to S. Donald Sussman, majority share owner of the Portland Press Herald.
Washington Bureau Chief Kevin Miller can be contacted at 317-6256 or at:
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