EDITORIALS

Committees give Angus King running start

Sen.-elect Angus King, I-Maine, talks with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, after King announced that he will caucus with the Democrats in the 113th Congress.
Harry Hamburg | AP
Sen.-elect Angus King, I-Maine, talks with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nev., on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, after King announced that he will caucus with the Democrats in the 113th Congress.
Posted Dec. 13, 2012, at 2:08 p.m.

Angus King’s committee assignments in the U.S. Senate place him in a position to protect and advance Maine’s interests. He is set to serve on four committees when he’s sworn in on Jan. 3: Rules, Armed Services, Intelligence and Budget.

Being on the Committee on Rules and Administration will give King an opportunity to do what he has said he wants to do: “move the Senate toward functionality.” The committee will provide him with a chance to be part of recommending improvements to the operation of Congress and how it relates to other government branches. It has jurisdiction over filibuster rules and campaign finance — two areas in dire need of reform.

It’s helpful for a Maine senator to serve on the Committee on Armed Services to fight for Bath Iron Works, Portsmouth Naval Shipyard and other Maine defense contractors, which employ thousands of Mainers. The committee has jurisdiction over a number of defense-related areas, including the pay and benefits of members of the Armed Forces and development of weapons systems.

As an independent, King’s balanced approach could aid the Select Committee on Intelligence, which hears about covert actions and gets regular updates about intelligence being collected around the world on matters like Middle East stability, potential terrorist threats and Iran’s nuclear program. He will continue Maine’s representation on the committee, with the departure of Sen. Olympia Snowe, and will be part of making recommendations to the Senate on presidential nominees to serve in intelligence positions. He may also weigh in on legislation — such as on laws about the surveillance of Americans.

The Budget Committee drafts Congress’ annual budget plan. Its responsibility is not to prepare legislation that enacts specific policies but to set a broad layout of overall revenue and spending levels. King may therefore be a key player in creating a framework for long-range deficit reduction.

Clearly, making positive changes will require more than key committee assignments. King’s influence will also depend on the connections he makes with other senators and his ability to identify areas where compromise is actually possible. But King will be off to a good start in the Senate on these committees, particularly as a freshman.

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