Independent Maine Sen. Angus King told a reporter for The Hill newspaper in Washington on Wednesday that he is weighing whether to begin caucusing with Senate Republicans if the GOP takes majority control of the U.S. Senate in the November mid-term elections. The Washington Post also reported the news on Thursday.
King’s staff downplayed the report on Thursday and said nothing has changed — though his staff maintained that the possibility King might join with Republicans is real.
“Sen. King only told The Hill newspaper what he’s always said — that his guiding principle is, and always will be, to do what is right for Maine,” said a spokesperson in a written statement in response to questions from the Bangor Daily News. “He’s a proven consensus builder and will continue to work with members on both sides of the aisle, regardless of who’s in charge. He believes the people of Maine sent him here to find solutions and that’s all he’s focused on.”
King, Maine’s former independent governor, has worked hard over the years to position himself in the middle of the political spectrum and built his 2012 campaign around his desire to go to Washington and avoid partisan gridlock — a situation that former Republican Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe said was a major factor in her decision to step down and leave her seat up for grabs.
King spent months during the campaign for the U.S. Senate avoiding questions about which party he would caucus with, deciding on the majority Democrats shortly after the election. Which party King caucuses with is significant because the majority party has greater authority on committee assignments. King’s independence would also be significant if the political balance in the Senate ends up being within a vote or two and King, one of two independents currently in the Senate, tips the balance toward one party or the other on important issues.
“By associating myself with one side, I am not in automatic opposition to the other,” King told the Bangor Daily News in November 2012.
Republicans need to pick up six seats in the November election to take over the Senate majority.