AUGUSTA, Maine — Maine Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King on Friday announced that they have picked up new committee assignments for the 114th Congress, which begins in January.
In addition to remaining on her previous committees, Collins, a Republican, will rejoin the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, on which she served during her first term.
King, an independent, has been named to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
King will continue to serve on the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Budget Committee and the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration.
King said Friday afternoon that he sought the position on the energy committee because he sees high energy prices as one of the most serious problems in Maine. King, who in the past has been heavily involved in Maine’s fledgling wind power industry, said Maine needs more abundant and reliable access to natural gas being produced in the Marcellus shale field in Pennsylvania, but that long-term, renewable energy is the solution.
King divested his involvement in the wind industry in 2012, when he ran for the U.S. Senate seat that opened with Republican Sen. Olympia Snowe’s retirement.
“We have a huge problem in Maine and New England,” said King. “I agree with [Gov. Paul LePage] that the lack of natural gas pipeline infrastructure is a big problem for us so I asked to be on this committee. … I saw this as the domestic affairs committee that will have the most direct impact on Maine.”
King said the wind industry already has invested more than $1 billion in Maine and that in the future, new technology to generate electricity with solar and tidal power will become more viable.
“Maine has always been in a challenging position in terms of energy because we were solely dependent on oil for so many years,” he said. “To me, the answer is diversity and balance. Right now we need to work on the natural gas shortage issue.”
The Energy and Natural Resources committee has jurisdiction over energy policy, electricity markets, pipeline infrastructure as well as national parks and federal lands.
After Republicans wrested away the Senate majority during the November elections, King, an independent, becomes part of a minority caucus that includes 44 Democrats and two independents, the other being Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. The Democrats’ caucus has lost the right to pick committee chairmen and has fewer seats on each panel.
With Republicans in control when the new Senate convenes in January, Collins will take over as chairwoman of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, which she said she views as vital to Maine, the state with the oldest median age in the nation. The committee is focused on issues ranging from elder fraud and abuse to research on diseases such as Alzheimer’s and diabetes.
Collins will continue her role on the Senate Appropriations Committee, which is one of the most prestigious in Congress. She also expects to be chairwoman of the Senate Transportation and House and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, which oversees transportation and housing issues. In the past, Collins has ushered federal funding to Maine that replaced bridges in Richmond, Rumford and Kittery, as well as port investments in Eastport, Searsport and Portland.
“I support a robust investment in transportation infrastructure, both in Maine and through the nation,” said Collins in a written statement. “As chairman of the Senate Transportation Subcommittee, I know well the positive effects of investing in our nation’s aging infrastructure. This investment not only repairs crumbling roads and bridges allowing the critical flow of goods and services, but also boosts the economy and creates much-needed jobs.”
Collins will continue to serve on the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee and the Senate Intelligence Committee.
The committee assignments are preliminary and will be formalized when the new Congress convenes in January.