One of the U.S. Senate's most unnecessary bits of intrigue has ended today, as Maine's Sen.-elect Angus King has decided to caucus with the Democrats in the Senate. This is basically pretty convenient for everyone involved, seeing as how Angus King's ideological leanings and policy preferences are pretty much standard-issue Democratic Party ideological leanings and policy preferences. (One way in which he differs from the Democrats' Senate caucus is that he wishes that the Affordable Care Act was even more liberal.)
As the Associated Press notes, "With King joining their caucus, Democrats will have a 55 to 45 edge in the Senate."
The reason it took King such a long time to make up his mind is because his campaign has largely been one long, operatic piece of schtick, in which King has gone to comical lengths to demonstrate that he will be "independent." This has been so important to him that at times he has actually presented himself as a daft man who doesn't know how the Senate works. But at long last, he seems fairly content that he has pulled off this act to everyone's satisfaction. As the Portland Press Herald reports:
But King insisted on Wednesday –- as he did throughout his campaign –- that just because he is caucusing with one of the parties does not mean he plans to toe the party line. Nor does affiliating with one side mean that he will be "In automatic opposition to the other," he said.
No one but King was actually ever under the impression that joining the Democratic caucus meant that he was locked in as a slave to Harry Reid's whims. The Herald goes on to report that King "spoke at length" with Bernie Sanders and Joseph Lieberman, who are both independents that caucus with the Democrats. Why he had to talk to them to gain assurances that he wouldn't be required to "toe the party line" is beyond me. He could have just read a single newspaper article on Bernie Sanders or Joe Lieberman. He could have also familiarized himself with the non-party line toeing antics of actual Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Jon Tester. Seriously, much of King's apparent confusion could have been solved simply by using Google.
The Herald continues:
"I came away from these conversations reassured that my independence would be respected and that no party-line commitment would be required or expected," King told reporters at a Capitol news conference. "And so I have decided to affiliate myself with the Democratic caucus 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 of the people of Maine."
King said it became clear to him, after researching the Senate process and procedures, that he would have been largely excluded in the committee process if he chose to "go it alone."
King could have saved himself a lot of time doing all that research if he'd just availed himself of this Alex Pareene article that totally explains what the "committee process" is and how it works.
At any rate, King says that he won't rule out caucusing with the GOP if they, at some point in the future, obtain the majority in the Senate. That would be a pretty strange thing for King to do, considering the fact that the GOP spent millions of dollars attacking King during the election, and also because King does not actually agree with the policy preferences of the GOP caucus.
Also, saying that you'll go along with whatever party is the majority isn't so much a sign of tremendous independence as it is a sign of tremendous co-dependence. But what can I say? Angus King is one weird dude.
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