Maine Independent Sen. Angus King, who caucuses with Democrats, admits he may switch to vote with Republicans if they take over control of the Senate, as expected, in this year's mid-term elections.
"I'll make my decision at the time based on what I think is best for Maine," King told The Hill
Wednesday, just after he voted with Republicans to block the Paycheck Fairness Act, a measure considered at the center of this year's Democratic campaign agenda.
King, 70, will likely be wooed heavily this year, but chose to caucus with Democrats after the 2012 elections put the party in charge of the Senate, and since that time has mostly sided with Democrats on many bills.
But his choice to caucus with Democrats indicates he leans toward which side is in the majority, and many polls
are showing Democratic candidates losing to Republicans this year. Further, vulnerable Democrats are facing backlash over the unpopularity of Obamacare.
If the races come out close, though, King's deciding vote could well decide which party controls the Senate. If the GOP can pick up six seats, the party will run the Senate. However, if only five Republicans win, the Senate will have a 50-50 split, with Democratic Vice President Joe Biden breaking the tie and giving Democrats control.
There are many ways Republicans can sway King to their side, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., offering him a seat on a high-powered committee, such as Finance. But King already sits on the Armed Services, Budget, Intelligence and Rules committees, reports The Hill, and could retain them by staying on the Democrats' side if they keep the Senate's majority vote.
Missouri Republican Sen. Roy Blunt, who chairs the Senate Republican Conference, said
Wednesday King may want to reconsider his choice if Republicans regain control of the Senate. Blunt contacted King in 2012 to offer him the opportunity to caucus with Republicans, and had that happened, Democrats would have held a four-seat majority, a precarious position for the party.
On Wednesday, King was the only lawmaker to break ranks and vote with Republicans on the pay equity bill, and Republican lawmakers said King's vote surprised them.
But King said he made his choice because he considered the legislation to be poorly conceived, and he thinks it will hurt businesses.
"I’m wholly committed to equal pay for equal work, but I just felt this bill had some provisions that would not further the goal and, in fact, would be very burdensome, particularly the provision that, in effect, requires a business to prove a negative," he said.
The legislation would have called for employers to prove that pay gaps between men and women are not based on gender. King said he "didn't think this bill was the right answer."
King said there was no alternative version of the bill, so he felt he had to vote against it.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said King let him know he was voting with the Republicans, and Reid said he did not try to change King's mind.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee helped King win his race two years ago when it declined to nominate the Democrat nominee, Cynthia Dill, and bought $410,000 in advertising the help King, according to The Hill.
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