In a divided Washington, Sen. King can stand apart


Sen. Angus King (I-ME), was supposed to be coming to Norway today to address citizens at the Norway Memorial Library. Elected officials often do this, utilizing their time away from Washington, D.C., to make personal contact with their constituents outside the Washington Beltway. It gives them and their staffs a chance to rub elbows with everyday people, to put a face with the issues they face and the people who pay their salaries.

Instead, King’s surrogates will represent him. They are likely to find an engaged audience in Norway, as Mainers show no reluctance to challenge their public representatives and to stay up to speed on a myriad of issues. Among those issues is the Affordable Care Act, which was passed very early in President Obama’s first term, and which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, including the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts.

And yet, a cabal of far-right conservative southern senators, including David Vitter of Louisiana, Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky have made it their life missions to repeal the health-care law, primarily by seeking to defund it. Some believe they do so at their own peril, but that is a conversation for another day.

Another hot-button issue is immigration, where some of the same senators and more than a handful of members of Congress, usually led by Rep. Steven King of Iowa, are on record as not only opposing immigration reform, but also promoting punitive measures for those who may be in the United States without the proper documentation but who still seek citizenship.

And of course, the vitriol escalates when the discussion turns to foreign policy, the Internal Revenue Service, the farm bill and food stamps and a host of other issues that are often innocently introduced into the public discourse only to fall into the abyss of pessimistic putrid political pandering.

Aren’t we better than that?

To his credit, Senator King has not hesitated to call to task both Democrats and Republicans for their divisive tactics and myopic attitudes toward doing what’s best for the American people. This past Thursday, Aug. 1, King, through his staff, issued a blistering statement regarding the U.S. Senate’s failure to tackle the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill before the body.

“I don’t always agree with the Democrats, including most recently during the student loan interest rate debate, but there are times when we have to just call a spade a spade,” King wrote about Republican maneuvers that doomed the bill. “I urge my colleagues – again – to end the political posturing, to pass a responsible budget, and to pass appropriations bills. The American people sent us here to get things done, and accomplishing those two things would not only be a significant boon to our economy, but would also demonstrate to our constituents that we can govern responsibly.”

King calls it “unacceptable obstructionism.” We’ll go a step further. It’s an unabashed political campaign for 2014 and 2016. It’s about a few individuals collectively holding a nation hostage through process manipulation, all for the sake of scoring political points while everyday Americans, including Mainers, wait for the obstructionists to get their acts together and tackle the nation’s ills.

As the political discourse goes down an even murkier road than it’s done in the past, Sen. King can take the road less travelled and continue to push for compromise and collegiality. It would be a far cry from what we’ve seen in other places but every now and then, surprises do happen.

Advertiser Democrat Editorial Board