Reform-minded Angus King says he’s had warm Senate welcome
Senator-elect Angus King came to Washington preaching bipartisanship and fearing that many of his new colleagues wouldn’t go near him, figuring he’s “a strange creature.”
But to King’s delight, a number of Democrats and Republicans stepped forward to say that they share his desire to end congressional gridlock.
“I was a little apprehensive coming down here,” King told Reuters TV on Thursday (video above), his third day in Washington after last week’s congressional and presidential elections.
“I was afraid they would say all say, ‘Forget it. We’re not going to talk to this strange creature from Maine who’s an independent,'” King said.
“But I have been pleasantly surprised. There’s been a lot of positive, I think genuinely warm words of – ‘Hey, let’s get together. Let’s talk. Let’s see if we can work on some of these problems together.'”
A former two-term Maine governor, King came out of retirement last February to campaign for the seat of retiring Senator Olympia Snowe.
King said he ran for the Senate for the same reason Snowe was leaving it: partisan gridlock that has prevented Congress from tackling many of the nation’s woes, particularly a record debt and an ailing economy.
Having worked across the political aisle while governor from 1995 to 2003, King figured he could do the same in Washington – or at least try.
“I sense a little glimmer of optimism,” King said. However, it’s far too early to say if he and like-minded lawmakers will succeed.
“The message from this election, my election for sure, also around the country, is that people want us to solve problems. I’m hearing this from my new colleagues,” King said.
“People can’t understand why the Senate and House and the president can’t get together and compromise and get things done,” King said.
King said there’s clearly a desire to do so.
“Whether it will hold through some of the painful decisions that will have to be made on the deficit and the debt is the big question,” King said.
Washington is packed with name droppers. But King, citing the privacy of others, declined to identify – with one exception – those in the Senate he talked to this week.
He said he conferred with Senate Democratic Harry Reid before deciding to caucus with the chamber’s Democrats rather than Republicans.
“I wanted to be reassured by him that I could remain independent and still call ’em like I see them,” King said. “He assured me that was the case.”