February 27, 2014



Rep. Steve King spent the recent congressional recess on a newsroom and Rotary Club victory tour of Iowa's 4th District, trumpeting his win over House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in the internal Republican debate about immigration reform and setting the stage for a constitutional confrontation with President Obama.

King got plenty of headlines for "doubling down" on his controversial earlier remarks about "drug mules" and illegal immigration.

He said the inflammatory language was necessary in order to properly frame the debate.

"I found another way to get them to pay attention," King said of his choice of words in describing undocumented border-crossers. Boehner has reversed course and decided to walk away from immigration reform, although King's role in that switch is debatable.

"So I'm not here to apologize, what I've said is objectively true," King told the Spencer Daily Reporter last week. "And any time Republicans have criticized me, it's not because of what I said, it's because they disagree with my agenda. When they start calling names, they've lost the debate."

King's take on the unraveling of Boehner's immigration strategy garnered plenty of coverage in the district and thrilled his arch-conservative fundraising base.

And, with the House scheduled to be in session for only 20 more weeks between now and Election Day, King will get to spend plenty of time in front of voters and cameras in the district.

The incumbent congressman also has plenty of time to spend in front of campaign contributors: He has yet to catch up with Democratic challenger Jim Mowrer in the fundraising chase.

Campaign finance reports due in about five weeks should reveal whether King's recent high profile translated into a surge of contributions.

King loves speaking out on immigration - it's like money in the bank for the congressman.

But how about the minimum wage? Obama, and Iowa's Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, want to have a conversation about that in the coming months.

Harkin has a bill to increase the minimum wage to $10.10 over three years, and Democrats believe they have enough leverage on the issue to persuade moderate Republicans in both the Senate and House to support it.

King says he's perfectly happy to have a conversation about the minimum wage. He wants to make it a debate about presidential abuse of power, though.

King told the Spencer Daily Reporter that Obama has "altered the balance of power" between Congress and the executive branch through "unilateral actions" that "stretched the Constitution."

Obama has done so in implementing Obamacare, King charged, and the president is doing it again by raising the minimum wage for employees of federal government contractors.

Now will King say the "I" word?

King has danced around whether Obama's alleged transgressions add up to impeachable offenses.

GOP leaders don't want this to slide into a discussion about impeachment. Such talk would fire up the conservative base, certainly, but it would also alienate moderate voters in the run-up to the November elections.

Boehner well remembers the impeachment of President Bill Clinton, which led to House Republican losses in the 1998 midterm election. Boehner lost his own leadership position after that election and it took him seven long years to climb back up the ranks.

King isn't encumbered by such concerns, which makes leaders nervous when the discussion turns to issues such as alleged abuse of presidential power.

The minimum-wage debate will run on two tracks this year: While Democrats focus on legislation that would raise the minimum wage for all workers, King will turn the discussion to Obama's executive action affecting the pay of workers employed by federal contractors.

That fits neatly into King's running narrative about an over-reaching, possibly law-breaking president. But will King push that to its logical conclusion, and will Republicans pay a price if he does?