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Senator-elect Angus King sides with Democrats

Former Maine Governor Angus King is pictured in this undated photograph released on June 22, 2012. REUTERS/Courtesy of the Office of Angus K
Former Maine Governor Angus King is pictured in this undated photograph released on June 22, 2012. REUTERS/Courtesy of the Office of Angus K

By Thomas Ferraro

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senator-elect Angus King, an independent and former Maine governor, said Wednesday he will caucus with President Barack Obama's Democrats, raising the party's control of the Senate to 55-45 in the new Congress that convenes in January.

King had been expected to side with Democrats, but deferred his decision until after the general election last week. His allegiance gives Democrats a gain of two seats in the 100-member chamber but falls short of the 60 votes necessary to block the filibusters that frequently paralyze the Senate.

King will fill the seat of Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, who retired with a denunciation of the partisan gridlock that prevents Congress from resolving many of the nation's problems.

As a former governor who worked with both Democrats and Republicans in his state, King said he believed that he could help obtain bipartisan solutions in Washington.

"By associating myself with one side I am not in automatic opposition to the other," said King, who while governor of Maine had weekly luncheons with state Democratic and Republican leaders.

"I hope in a small way, in a small way, I may be able to act as a bridge between the parties, an honest broker," King said.

King is considered conservative on fiscal issues and liberal on social matters.

"By associating myself with one side I am not in automatic opposition to the other," he said.

"I hope in a small way, in a small way, I may be able to act as a bridge between the parties, an honest broker."

As for reducing the record U.S. debt, King wrote in a campaign position paper, "all options must be on the table."

He expressed interest in ideas proposed by a commission headed by former Republican Senator Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles, a chief of staff to Democratic President Bill Clinton.

In 2010, the Simpson-Bowles panel called for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to trim the debt by $4 trillion over a decade.

Obama declined to embrace the plan and it ran aground, although the concept is gaining new life at least as a talking point as Congress faces a "fiscal cliff" of expiring tax cuts and mandatory reductions in spending that could slam the economy when it takes effect in January.

In 2010, the Simpson-Bowles panel called for a mix of spending cuts and tax increases to trim the debt by $4 trillion over a decade.

(Reporting By Thomas Ferraro; Editing by Doina Chiacu)

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