Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) said Friday that passing immigration reform would do untold damage to the Republican party, and dismissed the latest Democratic claims that an immigration bill would actually help the GOP.
King spoke to TheBlaze a day after Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) gave a blistering critique of King on the Senate floor. Schumer blasted King for objecting to all attempts to give illegal immigrants legal status in the U.S., and said Republicans would pay the price politically for following King’s advice.
“Let me say, they are following Steve King over the cliff,” Schumer said. “Because not only are they hurting America, but because they are so afraid to buck this extremist — and he is extreme on immigration — they are going to make it certain that they will lose the 2016 Presidential election, that they will make sure that the Senate remains Democratic in 2016 and that the House turns Democratic.”
But King laughed off Schumer’s speech as just the latest attempt to trick the GOP into passing a bill.
“He is trying to goad Republican leadership into the political suicide of bringing some form of amnesty to the floor in this election year,” King said of Schumer. “The goal is, of course, is to try to save the Democrat majority in the United States Senate.”
King has long dismissed the Democratic idea that Republicans must pass an immigration bill in order to have a chance in 2016. He said he was laughing out loud at President Obama’s suggestion in 2013 that the GOP must consider a bill, especially when Obama said he was offering that idea because he was “trying to help” them.
“I had to put my hand over my mouth to keep me from bursting out laughing,” he said. “But some people were mesmerized by that.”
King estimates that in the Republican caucus, 20 to 25 members would vote for the Senate’s immigration bill, while 50 to 70 would “fight to the last drop of blood” against a comprehensive immigration bill. He said many members in the middle could vote on some bill if it were presented, but said many of them might do so just to make the issue go away.
While the party is split, much of the attention has fallen on King. The six-term Republican took on a new level of prominence in the debate after his 2013 assessment that many illegal immigrants are hauling drugs into the United States, and as a result have “calves the size of cantaloupes.”
King said Schumer’s speech on Thursday was part of an effort to silence his point of view.
“It was about of course the Alinksy tactics of Schumer polarizing and personalizing to try to marginalize me and diminish my influence in the House but also in the country,” he said, referring to Saul Alinsky, the Rules for Radicals author. “But the real agenda… repeatedly it comes back to, don’t let Steve King control this agenda.
“We should remember that Democrats take signals like this and there will be more attacks on me. This is just one play out of a large play book.”
But King says he does not have the power to tell the House what to do on immigration, despite Schumer’s suggestion.
“If I had the power, the authority to kill everything immigration-wise that comes through the House, if they actually handed me the keys to the kingdom, and if I actually had the gavel that controls the immigration issue, that would be nice,” King said.
To that point, he noted that he recently had to fight back an attempt to pass language in a defense authorization bill that would give illegal residents legal status for joining the military. King is fighting members of his own party on this, and said the issue may yet resurface this year.
He’s also worried about a small House bill aimed at stopping human trafficking that was pulled directly from the Senate’s immigration bill. King said he wants to shut that bill down because it could allow the House and Senate to hold a “conference” to reconcile the two bills, which could give conferees a chance to sneak in some objectionable immigration language.
Aside from fighting members of his own party, King is facing more and more opposition outside of Congress, including from Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and the Chamber of Commerce.
“I should actually be very, very flattered to see hundreds of millions of dollars and some of the richest people in America, and Chuck Schumer, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, and all of those folks taking the time and the energy to target me,” he said.
When asked what he’s feeling if not flattery, King said, “Well, in a way I am flattered, but I’m also girding my loins for battle.”