AUGUSTA — Independent Sen. Angus King’s early penchant for voting with Democrats seems to be surprising no one in Washington, including Republicans in the Senate. And the trend isn’t likely to hold, the senator says.
In April, the National Journal posted an article titled “Independent in name only.” Based on an analysis of King’s voting record during his first 100 days in office, the journal concluded “the independent senator from Maine has voted with the Democratic leadership about 90 percent of the time, the same rate of allegiance as the former chairman of the Democratic Party, fellow freshman Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia.”
The analysis notes that King voted with Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the Senate Majority Whip, on all but nine of his first 95 floor votes. A dozen Democrats broke with party leadership more often.
Since then, King has differed with Senate Democrats on a vote on a high-profile proposal by California Sen. Dianne Feinstein to ban so-called assault rifles and on an amendment by Republican North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr related to Second Amendment rights of veterans and their families.
“I’m just calling them as I see them,” King told the Bangor Daily News by phone Wednesday. “I voted on what I thought was the right answer. On the issues that have come up, I agreed more with Democrats. That will change.”
Republicans in the Senate have emphasized patience in their public stance toward King’s early record. Despite National Republican Senate Committee ads during last year’s campaign that attacked King for being a Democrat in disguise, the Senate’s GOP leaders aren’t howling.
“The campaign was a campaign, and now we’re trying to govern,” Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the former NRSC chairman, told National Journal. “I’m still hopeful that he’ll occasionally see fit to cast a contrary vote in order to demonstrate his independence.”
Seven-term Sen. Orrin Hatch of Utah, the longest serving Republican in the Senate, also sidestepped King’s early voting record. “He seems like somebody who wants to get things done here, which is, in and of itself, a refreshing view,” Hatch told National Journal.
Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins demurred when asked about King’s early voting record. “I can tell you that he’s been very good to work with on issues related to Maine, and I think I’ll just leave it at that,” she told National Journal, adding that the real test of King’s independence will come during what she expects to be tough battles this summer over Medicare and Social Security reform.
King said Wednesday that the Senate calendar has skewed his votes toward the Democrats.
“The things where I tend to align with Republicans haven’t come to the floor,” he said, citing regulatory reform and duplication of government services.
King said his early proclivity for voting with Democrats raised a “legitimate question.” But he insisted that it doesn’t indicate fealty to the party.
“Only once in almost five months has Harry Reid asked me for a vote,” King said. “I called him back in two hours and told him I could not vote with them. I’m making my own decisions.”