LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Independent Maine Sen. Angus King is remaining in the Democratic caucus, but it's clear he views himself as a bridge between the two sides.
"There are a number of bills that, you know, that I'd been working with already with Republicans and you know my job is to going to be to bring enough Democrats along if we can make these things go," King told CQ Roll Call in a phone interview. Even with a larger than expected victory Tuesday night, Republicans will need to find at least a handful of Democratic votes to secure the 60 votes needed to overcome potential filibuster challenges.
King pointed to a number of bills he's worked on with Republican co-sponsors, and he expressed optimism that some or all of them might move with the Republican majority next year. King highlighted a student loan overhaul measure he's worked on with Richard M. Burr of North Carolina, a regulatory overhaul proposal with Roy Blunt of Missouri and a paid family leave proposal along with Deb Fischer of Nebraska.
"I think it makes sense for a state to have one senator in each camp, so you can work both sides," he said. Maine's senior senator, Republican Susan Collins, easily won her re-election bid on Tuesday. King said he spoke with Collins Wednesday morning before announcing his decision to stay aligned with the Democratic caucus.
King also called to congratulate current Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., on his victory Tuesday evening, but the two didn't get into the possibility of King moving his desk across the aisle on the floor of the Senate.
"I've not talked to him about that. He's a pretty independent guy. I think he's probably going to announce today what he's going to do," McConnell said at a news conference here at the University of Louisville, his undergraduate alma mater. McConnell is set to become majority leader for the start of the next Congress when Republicans take control.
King said in the interview that he did have contact from an emissary on the Republican side about a possible jump, however.
King, who made his announcement at a press availability in Brunswick, Maine, explained the distinction there between being an independent member of the Democratic caucus and actually becoming a member of the Democratic party.
"It does not mean that I have given up my right to make independent decisions on bills, amendments, or presidential policies, just as I have over the last two years," King said. "And it does not mean that I have made a promise to support the Democratic position on any particular issue which may come before the Senate."
"What it does mean is that I will have lunch with the Democrats on Tuesdays and participate in their internal consideration of questions on the Senate agenda. Sometimes, I will agree with their caucus position, sometimes not, just as has been the case over the past two years," he said.
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