After his first year as a U.S. Senator, the self-described “world’s oldest freshman” and former Maine governor Angus King began his second year in office by making headlines once again.
After an Islamic militant group in Russia threatened to attack the Sochi Olympic Games, King raised alarm during an interview with CNN on January 19 in which he mentioned that he would not feel comfortable travelling or having his family travel to Sochi for the winter games.
However, when elaborating on the subject, King told the Orient, “I haven’t had special knowledge on the subject of the Games more than anybody else. We’ve been up to our neck in issues with Syria and Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency, we haven’t focused particularly on Sochi.”
King said that a hearing at the end of this week or early next week could address the potential terrorist threat further.
According to Govtrack.us, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, of which King is a member, met twice this week, once on February 4 and once on February 6 to examine “certain intelligence matters” and “counterterrorism policy in review of the Defense Authorization Request,” respectively. It is unclear whether or not Sochi was a topic of discussion at either gathering.
“There are always politics around the Olympic Games,” said King, “but we’ve always managed to work through those things. I hope we don’t get to a place where politics take over and push the games aside. Hopefully world politics can take a break for two weeks.”
On January 29, King also announced his support for the Properly Reducing Overexemptions for Sports (PRO Sports) Act. The act, introduced in September 2013 by Senator Thomas Coburn (R-OK), proposes an amendment to the tax codes that would strip any major professional sports leagues that makes over $10 million a year (including the NFL, NHL and PGA Tour) of its tax-exempt status.
“I saw it as an egregious example of the problems with the tax codes that everyone could immediately identify with and say ‘Oh yeah, that’s ridiculous!’” said King.
King hopes that the PRO Sports Act will spark further investigation into other loopholes in the tax code. According to King, if the act passes, it has potential to be a stepping stone to a major tax reform that could save Americans trillions of dollars a year.
As of February 6, however, King is the only cosponsor of the bill.
King, a former lecturer at the College, is one of just two independent senators in the US Congress. Though King and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, the other independent senator, both caucus with the Democrats, King told the Council on Foreign Relations in a recent interview that he only joined the caucus so he could be eligible to serve on Senate Committees.
While reflecting on his first year in office, King said that it is his work for these committees—especially the Budget Committee—that he is most proud of.
As a member of the Budget Committee, King helped form the Fiscal Year 2014 Budget Resolution, the first to pass Senate in almost four years.
Serving on three other Senate Committees—Rules and Administration, Intelligence, and Armed Services—has also enabled King to gain respect among senior members of the Congress.
“I’m coming in as the world’s oldest freshman,” King said, “so one of the ways I can try and gain some influence—since I’m not going to gain it through seniority—is to be a hard worker and be engaged in the not-flashy part of the job.”
Throughout the year, King has played an important role as a self-professed “bridge between the two parties.” One of his biggest accomplishments this year—and perhaps most relevant to Bowdoin students—was helping pass the Bipartisan Student Loan Certainty Act.
The bill, which was signed by President Obama in August 2013, put a cap on the interest rates on federal student loans. Had it not been passed, interest rates on the loans would have doubled, costing students across the country billions of dollars, according to King.
“We were within days of the interest rates doubling and everyone looked like they were going to walk away and do other things,” said King. “I got together with five other senators and we put together our own compromise package and through a lot of work persuaded both the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate to support it. It was a major bipartisan success of people trying to get together, make compromises, and get something done.”
In his first year as a senator, King sponsored six bills and co-sponsored nearly 170 bills and amendments.
This year, King hopes to focus his attention on regulatory reform and fixing areas of the Affordable Care Act.
“I think we have too much regulation that is unnecessary, expensive, and is slowing down the economy,” said King. “I believe in regulation—I think it’s important—but I think a lot of it goes too far.”
As of Wednesday evening, King said he had already talked to “someone at the White House” about areas of the Affordable Care Act he thinks can be improved.
“No piece of legislation is perfect,” he said. “I’m very intent on making sure that the regulations that the administration issues in regards to the employers are simple, straightforward and unburdensome.”