Maine U.S. Sen.-elect Angus King, addresses a news conference Wednesday in Washington, D.C.
King made his intentions known at a morning news conference in Washington D.C., where he's been undergoing freshmen orientation and meetings all week. He says he got significant input from independent Sens, Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who both caucus with Democrats.
Once it was clear that Democrats would hold the majority in the Senate, King says his decision wasn't difficult. With King's addition to their ranks, they will hold a 55-45 lead over Republicans in January. That means they have more committee seats, control scheduling and most other business.
Further conversations with Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, and former Sen. Majority Leader George Mitchell of Maine, solidified King's choice.
"I came away from these conversations reassured that my independence would be respected, and that no party line commitment would be required or expected," King said.
Senate Majority Leader Reid joined King at his announcement. Reid called King "the best of what a United States senator should be."
"Number one, he's independent," Reid said. "And number two, he's a man of principle. Always has been. I welcome him to the caucus where we have a strong tradition of independence, no better exemplified by Sen. Lieberman and Sen. Sanders."
In a telephone interview with MPBN following his news conference, King said he's already had discussions with Republicans about several issues on which he may make take their side. But that won't change the fact that he has formed an allegiance with Democrats.
Just after his news conference, King says, he passed Sen. Mike Johanns in the hall. Johanns is a former Republican governor from Nebraska.
"And he expressed disappointment, but at least he talked to me," King says, with a laugh. "But I made it clear - very clear - in my statement, that joining one side didn't mean I was in opposition to the other."
After meeting with King on Monday, retiring Maine Sen. Olympia Snowe released a statement saying she believes King's "bipartisan approach is right on target." And in an interview last week, Maine Sen. Susan Collins said she fully expected King would caucus with Democrats.
"I think, however, that Angus is very sincere in saying that, although he may be caucusing with the Democrats, that he will reach across party lines and that he will be willing to work with Republicans, particularly on budget issues," Collins says. "And we welcome his help and his input."
The day after his election, King told reporters he would ideally like to serve on the powerful Finance Committee, a wish that he says Reid suggested would be a long shot.
"When I raised that with Sen. Reid, he reminded me that it took John Kerry 14 years to get on Finance," he says. "So I think that's unlikely for a new senator."
King is now busy building a new office, and a team to run it. He says he's been flooded with resumes, but plans to take some familiar faces with him, including his campaign manager Kay Rand, who will serve as his chief of staff.