Robinson: The King of the Senate

Independent U.S. Senator from Maine Angus King (AP Photo)

The 113th Congress has convened with some new additions to the Senator’s club, none more powerful—and unpredictable than Senator Angus S. King, Jr. (I-Me.). King’s particular clout comes from his refusal to adopt party affiliation – a.k.a. his artful fence-straddling – a posture that will have both Republicans and Democrats begging and bargaining for his independent brand. But despite the former Pine Tree State governor’s remarkable penchant for appearing not to stand for anything partisan, there are a few things we can know for sure about the character of King’s reign.

For starters, despite maintaining throughout his campaign that he was ignorant of whom he would caucus with if elected, King hurried to align with Senate Democrats just days after securing victory over his Republican and Democratic opponents. His are progressive inclinations. But within that leftist milieu, King will still have priorities of his own. It is to these priorities political watchers should pay attention to as King carves his long-sought national legacy.

Angus King’s more honest moments on the campaign trail saw him testify to the need to bring efficiency to the Senate. The Constitution notwithstanding, King will be an ardent champion of filibuster reform, a top priority of the authoritarian Left wing. Conveniently, the Democratic Majority assigned him to the Rules Committee, where his non-partisan aura will lend trans-partisan appeal to the progressive plot to subvert minority rights. Perhaps the filibuster needs reform, but, with efficiency as his god, abolition might be his goal. Expect to see King’s handsome mustache bouncing about on every cable network as its owner derides the stagnant, do-nothing Congress.

On alternative energy, King’s stance is rather foreseeable. As a Recovery Act beneficiary—to the tune of a half-million dollars or more—King obviously favors “public investments” in alternative energy and other forms of corporate welfare (especially when he owns the alternative energy companies). Since he is accustomed to milking the public teat himself, we can expect his attitude towards corporate cronyism to be pro-suckle. Given King’s recent involvement with a Maine-based natural gas company, his support could render a tipping point for the Nat Gas Act, a law that would generously subsidize natural gas powered vehicles and fueling stations.

As for the latest hot topic – gun control – you might expect a Virginian transplanted to the wilds of Maine to advocate for gun rights. Not so. Although the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine supported King’s gubernatorial bids, King’s Senate campaign was bolstered by a man with a decidedly different attitude towards the 2nd Amendment – New York Mayor and rabid disarmament zealot Michael Bloomberg. Given that Bloomberg has already promised to use his vast personal fortune to war against the 2nd amendment, his support of King’s candidacy via political action committees may have been an early investment in just such a campaign. Expect King to support an assault weapons ban and whatever else the liberal bourgeoisie believes will keep them safe from gun-toting sycophants. (Assuming safety is their aim, of course.)

And, unlike Maine’s firebrand Republican Governor Paul LePage, who has butted heads with the Obama administration over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, King was an early supporter, advocate even, of the President’s socialization of American healthcare. Don’t expect him to sympathize with attempts to defund and dismantle the law, which seems to be dying out anyhow. However, when the contraceptive mandate gets its day in Congress, as it now appears it will, King–who is not particularly religious–could be a crucial voice in the defense of religious liberty. Oremus.

Concerning the federal government’s broader fiscal challenges, King’s knack for growing government and taxing citizens’ pants off as demonstrated in Maine during his two-term tenure as governor. (On a related note, Maine was recently ranked the worst state to do business in by Forbes magazine.) Of course, much time has passed since King was in the Blaine House, but it’s hard to look past the mammoth deficit he stuck his Democratic successor with. As for the direction of this spending, education will be the ostensible name of the game. King’s signature education initiative in Maine was equipping middle schoolers with MacBooks. On Capitol Hill, King will likely look for ways to enhance education via technology—on the taxpayers dime and for the profit of his techie pals, of course.

Angus King is nothing if not an aspiring leader, and come January he’ll get his chance to lead in one of the greatest deliberative bodies the world has ever known. He’s gotten off to a rotten start – saying on the stump he didn’t know who he would caucus with only to announce in late November – surprise! – It’s the Democrats. Such dishonesty, though all too common in the political class, is unbecoming of would-be leaders. King will undoubtedly play a pivotal role in shepherding the Republic through the perilous years we’re approaching. Let us pray he has the gall to meaningfully achieve the independent leadership style of which he has thus far fallen short.