With a Republican Senate majority on the horizon, Maine’s independent Sen. Angus King wasted no time telling the Maine press he would continue to caucus with Democrats. That’s despite his coy head-fake before the election that he would be winning to side with whoever could best help him further Maine interests, even if it was the GOP.
But when Republicans cleaned up on Election Day, snatching a majority of at least 53 to 45 over Democrats, the idea of wooing King became less appealing.
King’s new path to glory is one he will try to forge with Sen. Susan Collins, the newly re-elected Maine moderate Republican. The two aim to form – or revive – a moderate caucus in hopes of bridging the divide between Democratic President Barack Obama and the GOP-controlled Congress.
King did good leg work in his first two years in office, establishing himself as a genial politician willing to listen to and work with lawmakers – credibly – on both sides of the aisle. He’s thrown himself into his committees, partaking in bipartisan overseas trips as part of his role on the Senate Intelligence Committee and offering a history of leadership to anyone who will listen. Collins, of course, has also long-courted her centrist status, showing a willingness to buck her party on certain votes – notably the economic stimulus package and by shepherding the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ repeal.
Both rightly recognize voters of all stripes are sick and tired of a gridlocked-Washington and hope to usher in a new era of productivity. There’s just one major problem: It’s unlikely the House Republicans – whose majority will only grow when the new Congress takes over in January – will have any interest in compromise. Zero, actually.
That doesn’t mean House Speaker John Boehner might not like to pass some legislation. If he and soon-to-be Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had their way, some deals would be reached with the White House, so they could have accomplishments to run on in 2016, perhaps on tax reform or trade policy or education.
But Boehner has proved unequal to the task of corralling his caucus on anything that could be construed as a compromise with Obama. That pattern will likely hold true even if Collins and King could spearhead a group of moderate senators to pass legislation in the Senate.
If there’s one thing you can count on more than discord between Republicans and Democrats in Congress, it’s the sibling rivalry and arm-wrestling for power between the House and Senate.