Newly elected independent Senator Angus King from Maine is aiming at a seat on the Finance Committee, according to a source close to the Senator.
Because of its importance, a seat on the finance committee is usually not offerred to newly elected Senators. Sen. Ben Cardin, the junior Democrat on the committee, was not appointed before his 4th year in the Senate. Independent Senator King, who has not yet decided with which party he will caucus, will use his unique position to leverage access to the committee.
The Senate Finance Committee is one of the most powerful groups in the Senate because of its broad jurisdiction. The committee overseas matters of financial interests such as taxes, customs, and free trade agreements. It also has jurisdiction over the three major welfare programs: Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
The committee has, on top broad legislative jurisdiction, the power to investigate, evaluate, and review existing laws and the agencies that enforce them. The Department of Agriculture, Department of Commerce, Department of Homeland Security, Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Treasury all fall under the oversight of the Senate Finance Committee.
In the coming year, the committee's importance might be even greater if the Congress decides to revise the Tax Code and entitlement programs. According to Open Secret, a seat on the Committee is also highly coveted because of the financial gains its members can receive from various industries that intensively lobby the Finance Committee.
Senator King arrived in Washington this week and met with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, but no comments have been made about their conversations. A source close to King believes that the new Senator is not threatening to side with the GOP if he isn't sat on the committee. However, it is possible King is interested in ensuring Maine's position in the upper house. King will be replacing Maine Senator Snowe (R), who currently holds a position on the Finance Committee.
The Committee has 24 members, currently split between 13 Democrats and 11 Republicans, and will have four new members as two Democrats and two Republicans are stepping down. Fellow Maine Senator, Republican Susan Collins, said about Sen. King: "From a fiscal perspective, I think he has a lot in common with the priorities of the Republican Party." If chosen, Angus King could be the moderate voice that builds a bridge between the Democrats and Republicans, regardless of which party he decides to caucus with.