December 30, 2012

U.S. Senate transitions: An incoming independent voice hopes to bridge the divide

Sen.-elect Angus King will work to reform filibuster rules, the banking sector and gun laws.

By Colin Woodard cwoodard@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Angus King
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Sen.-elect Angus King, shown announcing that he will caucus with the Democrats, says he has been warmly received by colleagues from both major parties.

File photo/The Associated Press

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Sen.-elect Angus King speaks to campaign staff earlier this month before closing his campaign headquarters in Brunswick. As a member of the Rules Committee, he hopes to help rein in use of the filibuster.

Derek Davis/Staff Photographer

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"I'm a regulo-skeptic both from my own experience and from my experience as governor," he adds. "One of the things I will pay attention to in Congress is if regulations are reasonable and are doing what they were intended to do."


King will caucus with the Democrats but said this had far more to do with their having retained the majority than with the more than $3 million that Republican groups spent against him in the campaign. (National Democrats largely sat the race out.) Not caucusing with either party wasn't an option, as that would leave him out of the committee system where much of the Senate's work takes place, depriving Maine of full representation and influence.

He said Democrats had assured him they would respect his independence and won't attempt to punish him by taking away his committee assignments if he fails to vote with them. He said he was especially reassured after a conversation with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, in which he asked how often the leader would demand a party-line vote. "George just laughed and said, 'Well, I never could. You're talking about Democrats!' "

He also said he's very pleased with his committee assignments. "For a guy with no party and no seniority, I feel pretty good about it," he said.

In addition to Rules, King will serve on the Intelligence, Armed Services, and Budget committees. He said Armed Services was the only one he insisted on, as he'd learned that Sen. Susan Collins will leave that committee and both felt Maine needed representation to advocate on behalf of major military contractors such as the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and Bath Iron Works.

Most encouraging, King said, have been the meetings he's had with his Senate colleagues. After a weeklong trip to D.C. in mid-December, he said he had held substantive one-on-one meetings with 31 senators, including Republican leader Mitch McConnell and 10 of his colleagues. He was meeting many for the first time, but others were former governors he had worked with when he was in the Blaine House, including Tom Carper, D-Del., and Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H.

At one point in his last visit, he received a phone call out of the blue from Carper just asking if he could be of help in any way. "It wasn't setting up a meeting, it was pure: 'Can I help?' " King recalls. "The senators we met were so gracious. I was treated so well by both parties, and I'm looking forward to the relationships."

He and his wife, Mary Herman, also had lunch with Vice President Joe Biden at the White House. King recalls going through security and being escorted to a small West Wing waiting room. He was checking his email when "all of a sudden there's this voice saying 'King-Herman, table for four, King-Herman, table for four,' and I look up at the door, and it's Joe Biden," King recalls. "We go in and have an hour-and-a-half lunch, just us with him at this little round table. That's pretty cool."


King and Herman have rented a one-bedroom walk-up on the third floor of a Capitol Hill row house a few blocks from the Senate chamber. When Congress is in session, most senators are in D.C. from Monday through Thursday and return home for the weekends.

This month the couple bought furniture for the apartment at a Washington-area IKEA store, where they were recognized by a sales associate, who turned out to be a retired employee of WABI-TV in Bangor. "He said, 'I really like it that Maine's new senator is shopping at IKEA,' and I said, 'No, I'm just looking for stuff I can afford,' " King says. "They have pretty nice stuff, but you have to put it together," he added, showing a mark on his hand from the Allen wrench he'd used.

(Continued on page 4)

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Harry Reid, Angus King
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Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada talks with Sen.-elect Angus King on Capitol Hill last month after King announced he will caucus with Democrats, adding to the party’s voting edge. King says he will remain independent.

File photo/The Associated Press


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