U.S. Rep. Steve King
U.S. Rep. Steve King
April 3, 2013



Jefferson

Republicans, actively conducting an autopsy of the last presidential election, should be cautious about throwing overboard long-held principles and core constituencies in a chase for quick political fixes with younger voters and Hispanics, U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, says.

Bottom line: Count King out on the head-turning facelift some key GOP leaders, like Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, are proposing.

King said Republicans need to comb through the failed Mitt Romney campaign and see what went wrong - and the Kiron congressman has a strongly held view on that already himself. President Barack Obama and Romney were close in polling on jobs and the economy. The election turned on social issues, and Romney lost, King said.

"If it was a dead heat on jobs and the economy, and Barack Obama went all the way down through the list of his base, and energized his base every way that I can think of, and on the Republican side, it was just jobs and the economy and nothing else?" King said. "I think there's a broad spectrum of issues and some people will vote on a single issue, guns for example, life, marriage, all of those things, rule of law. All of that lines up and I think that there were millions who might have come to the polls if they'd been given some of those reasons to do so. So I'm going to stand on the point of we shall not abandon our principles - and see how the message gets sold at that point."

One key element of the Priebus-led National Republican Party's "Growth and Opportunity Project" is reaching Hispanic voters.

The GOP report said: "If Hispanic Americans hear that the GOP doesn't want them in the United States, they won't pay attention to our next sentence. It doesn't matter what we say about education, jobs or the economy; if Hispanics think that we do not want them here, they will close their ears to our policies. In essence, Hispanic voters tell us our party's position on immigration has become a litmus test, measuring whether we are meeting them with a welcome mat or a closed door."

Latinos voted for Democrat Obama over Republican Romney 71 percent to 27 percent, according to an analysis of exit polls by the Pew Research Center

In an interview Monday afternoon in Jefferson at the Bee & Herald offices with that newspaper and The Carroll Daily Times Herald, King said he has not read all of the national party "growth" report, and he wonders from where the talking points and strategies emerged - who developed them.

"I agree with the point about a better tone would be a constructive thing to do," King said.

But he says the 2012 presidential race is far from a referendum on the full Republican Party.

"Just because the American people re-elected the president is no reason for Republicans to abandon our principles," King said.

Obama didn't energize his base as well in 2012 as he did in 2008, and Romney failed to animate key voters for Republicans in national elections, King said.

"Within those formulas and with the numbers of evangelicals, and especially libertarians and just disaffected conservatives, the votes to win the next presidential election were there (for Republicans)," King said. "They just stayed home because they weren't inspired."

King said many in Congress - including Republicans - are prepared to sacrifice rule of law, massage discussion of a path to citizenship for undocumented workers, to placate or court Hispanic voters.

"Their agenda is to legalize millions of people," King said. "And what is their motive? Political expediency it appears to me. That's not a very good motive to undermine the rule of law."

King said his approach to immigration reform would be to re-establish the rule of law first, with stronger border security in place, and then have a discussion about what to do with undocumented workers and immigrant families who have significant roots in the United States.

A member of the House Judiciary Committee, King is a high-profile proponent of a bill that would change the way the federal government interprets the birthright-citizenship language in the 14th Amendment for immigration purposes. King's Birthright Citizenship Act of 2013 at its core would require that a child born in the United States must have at least one parent who is a U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident or immigrant serving in the military.

"No country that I know of grants automatic citizenship to babies that happen to be born in that country to parents who are not lawfully present in that country," King said.

The congressman said the 14th Amendment was written to deal with freed slaves.

"That was all a high principle and a just thing to do," King said.

But the intent was not make all babies born here to foreign nationals American citizens, he said.

"This is just a practice that began sometime late in the second half of the 19th century, and it has grown substantially and created this birth tourism," King said.

King said he has not talked with House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican, about moving the bill.

"It would seem like that's something I would do, but the time to have member-to-member conversations is really very limited in this Congress," King said. "And it has been in the previous couple as well. So I don't know where he stands."

King said he doubts there is much room for that kind of a bill" in Congress now.

If the bill did move in a very public fashion, how would it affect the GOP's effort to court more Latino voters?

"There are two ways to look at the Hispanic vote, and one of them is the people we know that are good, smart, hard workers, good strong family members, good church-goers and dress their kids better than generally I dressed our kids," King said. "That's one way of looking at. Another way to look at it is that the data that's out there show that more and more of them are voting for dependency from government. I think that they have been told a lot of things, especially this last political election, that have created animus against Republicans that was unnecessary."

King said many freshman and two-term Republicans in Congress have been "indoctrinated" into believing there is a workable solution to illegal immigration other than enforcing current law.