90.9 WBUR - Boston's NPR news station
Top Stories:
Here and Now with Robin Young
Public radio's live
midday news program
With sponsorship from
Mathworks - Accelerating the pace of engineering and science
Accelerating the pace
of engineering and science
Monday, September 30, 2013

Sen. Angus King: ‘We Look Like A Third World Country’

As the U.S. heads toward a partial government shutdown, U.S. Senator Angus King of Maine joins Here & Now for an update from Capitol Hill.

King, an Independent, says a small group of Republicans is holding the United States government hostage in order to achieve policy goals.

“It’s a segment of a segment that’s really controlling this thing,” King told Here & Now. “I mean, we look like a Third World country. It’s positively embarrassing.”

Angus King's Remarks On The Importance Of Health Insurance




So those are some of the potential impacts of a government shutdown. Let's talk to a congress member who's actually at the center of this. Senator Angus King, he's an independent from the state of Maine, he caucuses with Democrats. Senator, welcome, and let me start by asking you, as the Senate convenes today, is there any chance at all that Senate Democrats could blink?

SENATOR ANGUS KING: I think it's unlikely although possible. It's very difficult. I think it's important that it be clear that the Democrats - and myself, I said this on the floor the other day - are perfectly willing to talk about improving and modifying the Affordable Care Act but not at the point of a gun. There's an issue here that I think goes beyond the particular issue that we're talking about, and that is do we want to get into a habit or establish a precedent around here that we use the whole government as a hostage in order to achieve some kind of policy goal.

CHAKRABARTI: Well Senator King, I mean, there are many out there who would say that it takes two to play this game of brinksmanship. I mean, a group of House conservatives gathered on the Senate side of Capitol Hill just on Sunday to call their Senate colleagues back to work, which didn't happen on Sunday. I mean, Harry Reid did not do that, and Republican Representative Tim Griffin of Arkansas said, quote, "this an old football strategy: when you get to where you want to be in a football game, you run out the clock." I mean, is that what's happening here?

KING: No, I don't think so. I mean, the fundamental question is do we want to establish a precedent that we're going to negotiate about policy under the threat of a government shutdown or the threat of destroying the full faith and credit of the United States. And, you know, Republicans need to think twice about this. What happens if five, six, seven years from now we have a Republican president, a Republican Senate and House and a minority of Democrats in the House say we won't pass a continuing resolution unless you put Obamacare back or something.

CHAKRABARTI: Are you saying that...

KING: I mean, it's just not a good way to govern.

CHAKRABARTI: Do you think that the Democratic caucus would even entertain that in the future? Do you think that this is setting that much of a precedent?

KING: Well, the precedent is that these folks are trying to use the funding of the government as leverage to achieve a policy goal that really isn't related to the funding of the government. They're trying to effectively repeal a bill that was passed three years ago by both houses of Congress, signed by the president, approved by the Supreme Court.

And whatever it is, whether the bill involved something entirely separately, highway funding or something, it isn't a way to govern. And I think if John Boehner brought this clean continuing resolution to the floor without anything about the Affordable Care Act or other kind of extraneous policy things, it would probably pass. But it's the segment of a segment that's really controlling this thing. And, I mean, we look like a third world country. It's positively embarrassing.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, Senator King, are there any possible points of negotiation you see that could move forward today?

KING: Well probably not. Two things make the negotiations difficult. One is the principle of negotiating in this kind of hostage situation, and the second is that the Republicans in the House have gotten themselves into a place where it's very difficult for them to back off. They're caught.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, Senator King, the last time the government shut down was 17 years ago, but even more recently we went through a debt ceiling crisis, and that's the next thing that's coming up in the very near future. I mean, do you see - do you have any hope that we might be able to avoid this same brinksmanship or hostage-taking, as you've been saying, over the debt ceiling?

KING: Well, we don't have to speculate about the effect of a debt ceiling fight. If you look back to August of 2011, there was a dramatic, noticeable and measurable impact on the economy, and it wasn't good. But there's a deeper problem here. A lot of these folks, Meghna, hate government. They don't want government to work. A government shutdown, a meltdown of the economy that they can blame on the government is success for them. I mean, that's what makes this such a dangerous situation.

This is unprecedented. We've never had a situation where people for ideological reasons based upon legislation not involving the budget have threatened to shut down or destroy the credit of the United States. Hell, we paid our bills when Washington was burning in the War of 1812.

CHAKRABARTI: Well, Senator King, as you know, last week Republicans laid out a list of demands in exchange for raising the debt limit, including a delay of the Affordable Care Act and approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, amongst others. President Obama says he's not going to use the full faith and credit of the United States as a bargaining chip and would not negotiate over it.

But what I want to ask you is this: You took this seat that was once held by moderate Republican Olympia Snowe, and as we know she left Congress because of the hyper-partisan divide there. And I know that you went to the Senate in part as - as an independent who could potentially be a bridge-builder.

So here's what I want to ask you. There was a CNN International poll that was put out today, and in that poll 69 percent of people said that Republicans in Congress were acting like spoiled children, but 58 percent of people also said the same thing of Democrats. So, I mean, it's the American people who are really going to suffer the effects of whatever decisions are made in Washington.

KING: I'm in something of a dilemma here because my instinct is to try to find common ground. But I'm afraid if we find common ground in this or find a compromise I think is a better term, in this situation what you're really doing is enabling people to do this again and again and again.

I mean, I keep using the term, but it's a commonplace observation in dealing with people who hold hostages is that you don't negotiate with them because all it does is encourage it to happen another time. And that's what really bothers me about this situation. I just don't think that's any way to govern.

CHAKRABARTI: Senator Angus King of Maine, thank you so much, Senator.

KING: Thank you, Meghna, glad to talk.

CHAKRABARTI: We're back in a minute, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Please follow our community rules when engaging in comment discussion on this site.
  • ClaraThomas

    Blame both sides buddy. Neither one is worth anything. More of that in the next post.

    • PoliticsWatcher

      The bad guys certainly want you to think that the good guys are no better.

  • ClaraThomas

    Democraps and Repugs. two sides of the same coin answering to their ruling class masters.
    Look beyond what you see on TV and read about. Look behind the curtains to those “money masters” who control these two parties. This is the show they want you to see while others are manipulating the economy and country in general.
    Its all about keeping the STATUS QUO of the rich and powerful maintained while amassing more wealth and power our the people.
    When will many of you wake up and start to see how you are being bamboozled by the elite and also the mainstream media THEY OWN.

    He who controls the media controls the world.

    “Fifty men have run America, and that’s a high figure.”- Joseph Kennedy, father of JFK, in the July 26th, l936 issue of The New York Times.

  • Kim

    With all due respect Senator King, you are full of it and you are part of the problem. I am not embarrassed, we are not a third world country and I want Obamacare to be defunded or repealed (even better). And how much have you personally worked towards compromise? I’ll bet not one bit. And we all need to remember, Obamacare passed in the House without Republican support. So, at least some part of the US population, didn’t want it and still don’t. And, frankly, the country might be better off if the Congress just goes home and stays there. Because from what I observe, you guys are disgrace all around.

  • Alan Tibbetts

    The Republicans are 90% to blame. The cannot accept that Obama won two elections or that this law was passed. STOP HOLDING US HOSTAGE!

    • fl8898

      Most people disapprove of Obamacare. Obama has fooled you, he is the one holding us hostage. The republicans are doing their job to represent their constituents. You should think twice. The fact that the president and congress immediately exempted themselves and their buddies from Obamacare should set off all kinds of alarms for you. If it doesn’t you are just another partisan hack.

      • Alan Tibbetts

        The statistic you quote on how many people dislike Obamacare includes a significant number who want single payer universal healthcare (i.e. Obamacare didn’t go far enough). The Republicans are offering to fund the govt for a mere 6 WEEKS and think they can bargain that for an end to or year long delay in Obamacare. They aren’t going to get ANYTHING for a 6 week CR. Oh, and they will want to “bargain” again over the debt limit in 2 weeks. You may think the Democrats are pretty dumb, but they are not that stupid. As of now the GOP is the only party making any demands. If the Dems start making demands – more revenue, universal background checks, assault weapon ban, etc. – then there would be something to negotiate.

        • fl8898

          The Dems are demanding no compromise on the “law” of Obamacare, which was passed without congress even reading it, but exempting themselves from it, which provides for insuring millions of new patients without adding a single doctor, but adds 16,000 new IRS agents to enforce it. How many red flags do you need?

  • fl8898

    Angus King also recently said that if you don’t support Obamacare, you are guilty of murder. I wonder if he also believes that if you support amnesty for illegal aliens you are guilty of murder. You know, because illegal aliens commit crimes like drunk driving, burglary, etc, that leave American citizens dead.

  • Renfru

    No Sir, I respectfully disagree. We look like a Banana Republic! There is a difference.

  • Georgann Putintsev

    What’s the difference between the Affordable Health Care Program an Obama Care … nothing. It’s a Bill/Law that passed Congress.

  • fl8898

    Rue the day? Who says that?

    I see, so democrats are blameless, squeeky clean. You’re hilarious.

  • Kelly Cowan

    We need to get this straight with some basic civics.

    I will keep this simple.

    1) The Affordable Care Act is the law of the United States of America.

    2) We have federal elections to elect Congressmen, Senators, and our President.

    3) The Congress and Senate legislate to make law.

    4) The President signs the laws, if he is in agreement, or if the legislative branch have a two thirds veto proof majority.

    5) We have a Judicial branch, that is appointed by the President and confirmed by the legislative branch, that determines the constitutionality of the law.

    6) Before these elected representatives and appointed judges begin to serve, they are all required to take an oath to protect the our constitution and uphold our laws.

    Insurrectionist forces within the GOP/Tea Party are now holding the functioning of our government and the country hostage. They are breaking the oath they have taken, and are engaging in an insurrection against the authority of the United States of America and the laws thereof. In accordance with the constitution of the United States of America, a political party, or a branch of government must successfully legislate to change a law. The Constitution of the United States of America does not allow for a minority to use the functioning of the government, or the good faith and credit of the United States, as a tool of extortion, or as a means of legislation. The Constitution of the United States of America does not allow for a minority to use the functioning of the government, or the good faith and credit of the United States, as a tool of extortion, to thwart, or nullify established law. This is insurrection.

    Insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, is illegal under United States Federal Statute 18 USC Chapter 115 § 2383.


    Rebellion or insurrection – Whoever incites, sets on foot, assists, or engages in any rebellion or insurrection against the authority of the United States or the laws thereof, or gives aid or comfort thereto, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both; and shall be incapable of holding any office under the United States.


Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

September 12 8 Comments

Senator: Arab Countries ‘Need To Step To The Plate’ In Fight Against ISIS

Mark Begich (D-AK) is one of the few members of Congress speaking out against a key part of President Obama's plan for fighting the Islamic State.

September 12 Comment

Ecuadorian Drilling Damage Inspires Documentary

An American and an Ecuadorian are inspired to help Ecuador heal from decades of drilling and oil spills.

September 11 9 Comments

Doctor: 9/11 Responders’ Illnesses Becoming Worse

A World Trade Center Health Program medical provider says chronic illnesses affecting first responders are lingering and becoming worse.

September 11 Comment

Dennis Lehane Takes ‘The Drop’ From Screen To Page

Author Dennis Lehane discusses adapting a screenplay into a novel.