WASHINGTON -- Maine's newly elected senator, Angus King, pledged Wednesday that he would push for filibuster reform as he announced his intent to caucus with Democrats but remain independent of either party.
King, the former governor of Maine, easily won election last week, and insisted he would remain true to his pledge to be unbound by either party.
"I have decided to affiliate myself with the Democratic Party," King said. "Because doing so will allow me to take independent positions on issues as they arise. And at the same time, will allow me to be an effective representative for the people of Maine."
Caucusing with Democrats makes him part of the majority, which sets the agenda for what legislation comes to the floor and what matters get taken up in committees.
King said that among his first actions would be talking to other senators about reforming the filibuster rule that allows the minority party to block any bill that can't get a 60-vote super majority.
Democrats have certainly used the filibuster in the past, but Republicans in the current Congress have employed the tactic to stall just about every major bill in the Senate over the last several years, including measures that had broad bipartisan support.
"The filibuster, the rules of the Senate, in many ways are designed to protect the interests of small states, so I'm not one who thinks it should be abolished altogether," King said, noting he will represent a small state. "However, I think its use in recent years has been excessive, and I hope to talk with other senators who are more expert in this matter to find a solution that would limit its use as a tactic of delay and prohibiting action."
King campaigned in part on reforming the filibuster.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has already pledged to target the stalling.
"Everyone should understand that we're going to move to change what the Republicans have done to make the Senate an institution that has no bearing on when Lyndon Johnson was president," said Reid, who's often noted lately that Johnson only faced one filibuster when he led the Senate. "They have made this an almost impossible task to get things done.
"We're going to make an attempt to change the rules," Reid said.
While Reid likely will be able to count on King for filibuster reform, King cautioned that he would not be a guaranteed Democratic ally.
"By associating myself with one side, I am not in automatic opposition to other," King said. "I would like to repeat that. By associating myself with one side, I am not in automatic opposition to the other. In the situation of a Republican House and a Democratic Senate -- but with substantial powers residing in the minority -- and a Democratic president, no one party can control the outcome of our collective deliberations. As Bill Clinton might say, it's just arithmetic."
Reid said he hoped that King could help move government forward.
"I'm confident Sen. King will be a bridge to working with Republicans and explaining to the American people that we need to accomplish more for our country," Reid said.
Michael McAuliff covers Congress and politics for The Huffington Post. Talk to him on Facebook.
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