Angus King will caucus with Democrats, giving them 55th Senate seat

Independent Sen.-elect Angus King announced Wednesday that he will caucus with Senate Democrats.

The newly-elected senator from Maine was expected to do so but remained mum about his intentions during the election, when he was criticized by Republicans for not saying which party he would favor if he made it to the upper chamber.

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His move gives the Democrats another pickup as he replaces retiring Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe (Maine.). Democrats will hold 55 seats in the Senate in the 113th Congress.

“The outcome of last week’s election in some ways makes this decision relatively easy. In the situation where one party has a clear majority and effectiveness is an important criteria, affiliating with the majority makes the most sense,” King said.

He noted the majority has more committee slots to fill, more control over what bills to consider and more control over the Senate schedule.

King said he has discussed with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) several possible committee assignments but received no promise in exchange for caucusing with the Democrats.

He noted he did not speak with Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) because McConnell did not try to contact him. He did, however, talk to Sen. Roy Blunt (Mo.), vice chairman of the Senate Republican conference.

King said he mulled the possibility of not caucusing with either party but decided such a course would be unworkable because he would be largely shut out of the Senate's committees.

“The principal disadvantage of this go-it-alone approach is that I would likely be largely excluded from committee process, which is where most of the work of any legislative body takes place,” King said. “In the long run, I’d be relegated to the sidelines as the day-to-day work of the Senate was done by others.”

While he said the Senate Democrats' majority status factored into his decision, he left open the possibility of one day caucusing with the Republicans if they regain the majority and promise to respect his independence.

King said he worried his independence might be compromised by sitting with the Democrats but after discussions with Sens. Joe Lieberman (Conn.) and Bernie Sanders (Vt.), two independents affiliated with the Democratic caucus, felt reassured.

“Both confirmed that the Democratic caucus generally and its leadership in particular had consistently allowed them to maintain their independent positions and had never forced positions on them in the name of party loyalty,” he said.

King also consulted with former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, who served as a Democrat from Maine.

— This story was updated at 9:59 a.m.